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1 



HONORE DE BALZAC 



// 



TRANSLATBD BY 



KATHARrNE PRESCOTT WORMELEY 



MODESTE MIGNON 




ROBERTS BROTHERS 

3 SOMERSET STREET 

BOSTON 

1891 



Copyright^ 1888. 
By Roberts Brothers. 



All rights reserved. 



John Wilson and Son, Cambridcr. 



^0 a tPoIte!) ILatis. 

Daughter of att enslaved land, angel through love, witch 
through fancy, child by faith, aged by experience, man in 
brain, woman in heart, giant by hope, mother through sor- 
rows, poet in thy dreams, — to Thee belongs this book, in 
which thy love, thy fancy, thy experience, thy sorrow, thy 
hope, thy dreams, are the ibarp through which is shot a 
woof less brilliant than the poesy of thy soul, whose ex- 
Pression, when it shines upon thy countenance, is, to those 
who love thee, what the characters of a lost language are 
to scholars. 

DE BALZAC. 



CONTENTS. 



PAGB 

I. The Chalet 1 

II. A Portrait from Life . • 14 

in. Preliminaries 23 

IV. A Simple Story 35 

V. The Problem still Unsolved .... 48 

VI. A Maiden's First Romance ..... 68 

Vn. A Poet of the Angelic School. ... 70 

VIII. Blade to Blade 86 

IX. The Power of the Unseen 09 

X. The Marriage of Souls 109 

XI. What comes of Correspondence . . . 123 

XIL A Declaration of Love, — set to Music 133 

XIII. A Full-length Portrait of Monsieur de 

La BriIsre . 147 

XrV. Matters grow Complicated 163 

XV. A Father Steps In 179 

XVI. Disenchanted 196 

XVn. A Third Suitor 203 

XVIIL a Splendid First Appearance .... 217 

XIX. Of which the Author thinks a good 

Deal 230 



// 






viii Contents, 

OHAFTBB PAOB 

XX. The Poet does his Exercises . . 245 

XXl. Modeste Plays her Part 258 

XXII. A Riddle Guessed 271 

XXIII. BuTSCHA Distinguishes Himself . . . 283 

XXIV. The Poet feels that he is Loved too 

Well 293 

XXV. A Diplomatic Letter 307 

XXVI. True Love 317 

XXVII. A Girl's Revenge 327 

XXVIII. MODBSTK BEHAVES WITH DiGNITY . . . 336 

XXIX. Conclusion 346 



'^ V'^ OF THB " 

UNIVERSITl 

MODESTE MIGNON. 



CHAPTER L 

THE CHALET. 

At the beginning of October, 1829, Monsieur Simon 
Babylas Latournelle, notary, was walking up from 
Havre to Ingouville, arm in arm with his son and ac- 
companied by his wife, at whose side the head clerk of 
the lawyei*'s office, a little hunchback named Jean But- 
scha, trotted along like a page. When these four per- 
sonages (two of whom came the same way every 
evening) reached the elbow of the road where it turns 
back upon itself like those called in Italy connce^ the 
notary looked about to see if any one could overhear 
him either from the terrace above or thb path beneath, 
and when he spoke he lowered his voice as a further 
precaution. 

"Exupere," he said to his son, "you must try to 
carry out intelligently a little manoeuvre which I shall 
explain to you, but you are not to ask the meaning of 
it ; and if you guess the meaning I command you to 
toss it into that Styx which every lawyer and every 
man who expects to have a hand in the government of 
his country is bound to keep within him for the secrets 

1 



2 Modeste Mignan. 

of others. After you have paid your respects and 
compliments to Madame and Mademoiselle Mignon, 
to Monsieur and Madame Dumay, and to Monsieur 
Gobenheim if he is at the Chalet, and as soon as quiet 
is restored, Monsieur Dumay will take you aside ; you 
are then to look attentively at Mademoiselle Modeste 
(yes, I am willing to allow it) during the whole time 
he is speaking to you. My worthy friend will ask 3'ou 
to go out and take a walk ; at the end of an hour, that 
is, about nine o'clock, you are to come back in a great 
hurr}^ ;' try to puff as if 3^ou were out of breath, and 
whisper in Monsieur Dumay's ear, quite low, but so 
that Mademoiselle Modeste is sure to overhear j^ou, 
these words : ' The young man Jiaa come.^ " 

Exupere was to start the next morning for Paris to 
begin the study of law. This impending departure had 
induced Latournelle to propose him to his friend Dumay 
as an accomplice in the important conspiracy which 
these directions indicate. 

"Is Mademoiselle Modeste suspected of having a 
lover?" asked Butscha in a timid voice of Madame 
Latournelle. 

" Hush^ Butscha/' she replied, taking her husband's 
arm. 

Madame Latournelle, the daughter of a clerk of the 
supreme court, feels that her birth authorizes her to 
claim issue from a p9.rliamentary family. This con- 
viction explains why the lady, who is somewhat blotched 
as to complexion, endeavors to assume in her own per- 
son the majesty of a court whose decrees are recorded 
in her father's pothook^. She takes snuff, holds her- 
self as stiff as a ramrod, poses for a person of consid- 



Modeste Mignon. 3 

eration, and resembles Dothing so much as a mammy 
brought momentarily to life by galvanism. She tries 
to give high-bred tones to her sharp voice, and suc- 
ceeds no better in doing that than in hiding her general 
lack of breeding. Her social usefulness seems, how- 
ever, incontestable when we glance at the flower-be- 
decked cap she wears, at the false front frizzling around 
her forehead, at the gowns of her choice ; for how could 
shopkeepers dispose of those products if there were no 
Madame Latournelles ? All these absurdities of the 
worthy woman, who is truly pious and charitable, might 
have passed unnoticed, if nature, amusing herself as 
she often does by turning out these ludicrous creations, 
had not endowed her with the height of a drum-major, 
and thus held up to view the comicalities of her pro- 
vincial nature. She has never been out of Havre ; she 
believes in the infallibility of Havre ; she buys those 
clotlies as well as everything else in Havre ; she pro- 
claims herself Norman to the very tips of her fingers ; 
she venerates her father, and adores her husband. 

Little Latournelle was bold enough to marry this 
lady after she had attained the anti-matrimonial age of 
thirty-three, and what is more, he had a son by her. 
As he could have got the sixty thousand francs of her 
dot in several other ways, the public assigned his un- 
common intrepidity to a desire to escape an invasion 
of the Minotaur, against whom his personal qualifica- 
tions would have insuflSciently protected him had he 
rashly dared his fate by bringing home a young and 
pretty wife. The fact was, however, that the notary 
rec(^nized the really fine qualities of Mademoiselle 
Agnes (she was called Agnes) and reflected to himself 



4 Modeste Mignon. 

that a woman's beanty is soon past and gone to a 
husband. As to the insignificant youth on whom the 
clerk of the court bestowed in baptism his Norman 
name of " Exupere," Madame Latournelle is still so sur- 
prised at becoming his mother, at the age of thirty-five 
years and seven months, that she would still provide 
him, if it were necessary, with her breast and her milk, 
— an hyperbole which alone can fully express her im- 
passioned maternity. ^^ How handsome he is, tiiat son 
of mine!" she says to her little friend Modeste, as 
they walk to church, with the beautiful Exupere in front 
of them. " He is like you," Modeste Mignon answers, 
very much as she might have said, '* What horrid 
weather ! " This silhouette of Madame Latournelle is 
quite important as an accessory, inasmuch as for three 
years she has been the chaperone of the young girl 
against whom the notary and his friend Dumay are 
now plotting to set what we have called, in the '' Physi- 
dogie du Mariage," a mou^e-trdp. 

As for Latournelle, imagine a worthy little fellow as 
sly as the purest honor and uprightness would allow 
him to be, — a man whom any stranger would take for 
a rascal at sight of his queer ph3'8iognomy, to which, 
however,, the inhabitants of Havre were well accus- 
tomed. His eyesight, said to be weak, obliged the 
worthy man to wear green goggles for the protection 
of his eyes, which were constantly inflamed. The 
arch of each eyebrow, defined by a thin down of hair, 
surrounded the tortoise-shell rim of the glasses and 
made a couple of circles as it were, slightly apart. If 
you have never observed on the human face the effect 
produced by these circumferences placed one within 



Madeste Mignon. 5 

the other, and separated by a hollow space or line, you 
can hardly imagine how perplexing such a face will be to 
you, especially if pale, hollow-cheeked, and terminating 
in a pointed chin like that of Mephistopheles, — a type 
which painters give to cats. This double resemblance 
was observable on the face of Babylas Latournelle. 
Above the atrocious green spectacles rose a bald 
crown, all the more crafty in expression because a wig, 
seemingly endowed with motion, let the white hairs 
show on all sides of it as it meandered croc^edly 
across the forehead. An observer taking note of thi? 
excellent Norman, clothed in black and mounted on his 
two legs like a beetle on a couple of pins, and know- 
ing him to be one of the most trustworthy of men, 
would have sought, without finding it, for the reason 
of such physical misrepresentation. 

Jean Butscha, a natural son abandoned by his par- 
ents and taken care of by the clerk of the court and 
his daughter, and now, through sheer hard work, head* 
derk to the notary, fed and lodged bj' his master, who 
gave him a salary of nine hundred francs, almost a 
dwarf, and with no semblance of youth, — Jean But- 
scha made Modeste his idol, and would willingly have 
given his life for hers. The poor fellow, whose eyes 
were hollowed between their heavy lids like the touch- 
holes of a cannon, whose head overweighted his body, 
with its shock of crisp hair, and whose face was pock- 
marked, had lived under pitying eyes from the time 
he was seven years of age. Is not that enough to 
explain his whole being? Silent, self-contained, pious, 
exemplary in conduct, he went his way over that vast 
tract of country named on the map of the heart Love- 



6 Modeste SEgnon. 

wittiout-Hope, the sublime and arid steppes of Desire. 
Modeste had christened this grotesque little being her 
" Black Dwarf." The nickname sent him to the pages 
of Walter Scott's novel, and he one day said to 
Modeste : " Will you accept a rose against the evil daj" 
from your m^'sterious dwarf? " Modeste instantly sent 
the soul of her adorer to its humble mud-cabin with a 
terrible glance, such as 3'oung girls bestow on the men 
who cannot please them. Butscha's conception of him- 
self was lowl}', and, like the wife of his master, he 
had never been out of Havre. 

Perhaps it will be well, for the sake of those who 
have never seen that city, to say a few words as to the 
present destination of the Latournelle famil}', — the 
head clerk being included in the latter term. Ingou- 
ville is to Havre what Montmartre is to Paris, — a high 
hill at the foot of which the city lies ; with this differ- 
ence, that the hill and the city are surrounded b}^ the 
sea and the Seine, that Havre is helplessly circum- 
scribed by enclosing fortifications, and, in short, that 
the mouth of the river, the harbor, and the docks 
present a very different aspect from the fifty thousand 
houses of Paris. At the foot of Montmartre an ocean 
of slate roofs lies in motionless blue billows ; at Ingou- 
ville the sea is like the same roofs stirred by the wind. 
This eminence, or line of hills, which coasts the Seine 
from Rouen to the seashore, leaving a margin of valley 
land more or less narrow between itself and the river, 
and containing in its cities, its ravines, its vales, its 
meadows, veritable treasures of the picturesque, be- 
came of enormous value in and about Ingouville after 
the year 1816, the period at which the prosperity of 



Modeate Mignon. 7 

Havre began. This township has become since that 
time the Auteuil, the Ville-d'Avraj, the Montmorency, 
in shorty the suburban residence of the merchants of 
Havre. Here they build their houses on terraces around 
its amphitheatre of hills, and breathe the sea air laden 
with the fragrance of their splendid gardens. Here 
these bold speculators cast off the bui-den of their 
counting-rooms and the atmosphere of their city houses, 
which are built closely together without open spaces, 
often without court-yards, — a vice of construction 
which the increasing population of Havre, the inflexi- 
ble line of the fortifications, and the enlargement of the 
docks has forced upon them. The result is, weariness 
of heart in Havre, cheerfulness and joy at Ingouville. 
The law of social development has forced up the suburb 
of Graville like a mushroom. It is to-day more exten- 
sive than Havre itself, which lies at the foot of its slopes 
like a serpent. 

At the crest of the hill Ingouville has but one street, 
and (as in all such situations) the houses which over- 
look the river have an immense advantage over those 
on the other side of the road, whose view they ob- 
struct, and which present the effect of standing on tip- 
toe to look over the opposing roofs. However, there 
exist here, as elsewhere, certain servitudes. Some 
houses standing at the summit have a finer position 
or possess legal rights of view which compel their 
opposite neighbors to keep their buildings down to a 
required height. Moreover, the openings cut in the 
capricious rock by roads which follow its declensions 
and make the amphitheatre habitable, give vistas 
through which some estates can see the city, or the 



8 Modeste Mignan. 

river, or the sea. Instead of rising to an actual peak, 
the hill ends abruptly in a diff. At the end of the street 
which follows the line of the summit, ravines appear 
in which a few villages are clustered (Sainte-Adresse 
and two or three other Saint-somethings) together with 
several creeks which murmur and flow with the tides 
of the sea. These half-deserted slopes of Ingouville 
form a striking contrast to the terraces of fine villas 
which overlook the valley of the Seine. Is the wind 
on this side too strong for vegetation? Do the mer- 
chants shrink from the cost of terracing it? However 
this may be, the traveller approaching Havre on a 
steamer is surprised to find a barren coast and tangled 
gorges to the west of Ingouville, like a beggar in rags 
beside a perfumed and sumptuously apparelled rich 
man. 

In 1829 one of the last houses looking toward the 
sea, and which in all probability stands about the 
centre of the Ingouville of tiO-day, was called, and per- 
haps is still called, '^ the Chalet.'* Originally it was a 
porter's lodge with a trim little garden in front of it. 
The owner of the villa to which it belonged — a man- 
sion with park, gardens, aviaries, hothouses, and 
lawns — took a fancy to put the little dwelling more in 
keeping with the splendor of his own abode, and he 
reconstructed it on the model of an ornamental cottage. 
He divided this cottage ftom his own lawn, which was 
bordered and set with flower-beds and formed the terrace 
of his villa, by a low wall along which he planted a con- 
cealing hedge. Behind the cotts^e (called, in spite of 
all his efforts to prevent it, the Chalet) were the or- 
chards and kitchen gardens of the villa. The Chalet, 



Mode%te Mignon. 9 

wiihoQt cows or dairy, is separated from the roadway 
by a wooden fence whose palings are hidden under a 
luxuriant hedge. On the other side of the road the 
opposite house, subject to a legal privil^e, has a simi- 
lar hedge and paling, so as to leave an unobstructed 
view of Havre to the Chalet 

This little dwelling was the torment of the present 
proprietor of the villa. Monsieur Vilquin ; and here is 
the why and the wherefore. The original creator of 
the villa, whose sumptuous details cry aloud, ^^ Behold 
our millions ! " extended his park far into the country 
for the purpose, as he averred, of getting his garden- 
ers out of his pockets ; and so, when the Chalet was 
finished, none but a Mend could be allowed to inhabit 
it. Monsieur Mignon, the next owner of the property, 
was very much attached to his cashier, Dumay, and the 
following history will prove that the attachment was 
mutual ; to him therefore he offered the little dwelling. 
Dumay, a stickler for legal methods, insisted on signing 
a lease for three hundred francs for twelve years, and 
Monsieur Mignon willingly agreed, remarking, — 

. *' My dear Dumay, remember, you have now bound 
yourself to live with me for twelve years.'* 

In consequence of certain events which will presently 
be related, the estates of Monsieur Mignon, formerly 
the richest merchant in Havre, were sold to Vilquin, 
one of his business competitors. In his joy at getting 
possession of the celebrated villa Mignon, the latter 
forgot to demand the cancelling of the lease. Dumay, 
anxious not to hinder the sale, would have signed any- 
thing Vilquin required, but the sale once made, he held 
to his lease like a vengeance. And there he remained, 



10 Modeste Mignon. 

in Vilquin's pocket as it were ; at the heart of Vilquin's 
family life, observing Vilqain, irritating Vilquin, — in 
short, the gadfly of all the Vilquins. Every morning, 
when he looked out of his window, Vilqain felt a violent 
shock of annoyance as his e^^e lighted on the little gem 
of a building, the Chalet, which had cost sixty thousand 
francs and sparkled like a ruby in the sun. That com- 
parison is very nearly exact The architect has con- 
structed the cottage of brilliant red brick pointed with 
white. The window-frames are painted of a lively 
green, the woodwork is brown verging on yellow. The 
roof overhangs by several feet. A pretty gallery, with 
open-worked balustrade, surmounts the lower floor and 
projects at the centre of the facade into a veranda with 
glass sides. The ground-floor has a charming salon 
and a dining-room, separated from each other by the 
landing of a staircase built of wood, designed and dec- 
orated with elegant simplicity. The kitchen is behind 
the dining-room, and the corresponding room back of 
the salon, formerly a study, is now tlie bedroom of 
Monsieur and Madame Dumay. On the upper floor 
the architect has managed to get two large bedrooms, 
each with a dressing-room, to which the veranda serves 
as a salon ; and above this floor, under the eaves, which 
are tipped together like a couple of cards, are two ser- 
vants' rooms with mansard roofs, each lighted by a 
circular window and tolerably spacious. 

Vilquin had been petty enough to build a high wall 
on the side toward the orchai-d and kitchen garden; 
and in consequence of this piece of spite, the few square 
feet which the lease secured to the Chalet resembled a 
Parisian garden. The outrbuildiugs, painted in keeping 



Modeste Mignon. 11 

with the cottage, stood with their backs to the wall of 
the adjoining property. 

The interior of this charming dwelling harmonized 
with its exterior. The salon, floored entirely with iron- 
wood, was painted in a stjie that suggested the beaaties 
of Chinese lacquer. On black panels edged with gold, 
birds of every color, foliage of impossible greens, and 
fantastic oriental designs glowed and shimmered. The 
dining-room was entirely sheathed in Northern woods 
carved and cut in open-work like the beautiful Russian 
chalets. The little antechamber formed by the landing 
and the well of the staircase was painted in old oak to 
represent Gothic ornament. The bedrooms, hung with 
chintz, were charming in their costly simplicity. The 
study, where the cashier and his wife now slept, was 
panelled firom top to bottom, on the walls and ceiling, 
like the cabin of a steamboat. These luxuries of his 
predecessor excited Vilquin's wrath. He would fain 
have lodged his daughter and her husband in the cot- 
tage. This desire, well known to Dumay, will pres- 
ently serve to illustrate the Breton obstinacy of the 
latter. 

The entrance to the Chalet is by a little trellised iron 
door, the nprighis of which, ending in lance-heads, show 
for a few inches above the fence and its hedge. The 
little garden, about as wide as the more pretentious 
lawn, was just now filled with flowers, roses and dahlias 
of the choicest kind, and many rare products of the 
hot-houses, for (another Vilquinard grievance) the ele- 
gant little hot-house, a verj^ whim of a hot-house, a 
hot-house representing dignity and st^le, belonged to 
the Chalet, and separated, or if you prefer, united it to 



12 Modeste Mgium^ 

the Tilla VOqnin. Dumfty consoled liimaelf for the toils 
of business in taking care of this hot-hoase, whose ex- 
otic treasures were one of Modeste's jo3'8. The billiard- 
room of the villa Vilquin, a species of gallery, formerly 
oommunicated through an immense aviary with this 
hot-house. But after the building of the wall which 
deprived him of a view into the orchards, Dumay 
bricked up the door of conmiunication. " Wall for 
wall ! " he said. 

In 1827 Vilquin offered Dumay a salary of six thou- 
sand francs, and ten thousand more as indemnity, if he 
would give up the lease. The cashier refused ; though 
he had but three thousand from Gobenheim, a former 
clerk of his master. Dumay was a Breton trans- 
planted by fate into Normandy. Imagine therefore the 
hatred conceived for the tenants of the Chalet by the 
Norman Vilquin, a man worth three millions! What 
criminal leze-million on the part of a cashier, to hold up 
to the eyes of such a man the impotence of his wealth 1 
Vilquin, whose desperation in the matter made him the 
talk of Havi*e, had just proposed to give Dumay a pretty 
house of his own, and had again been refused. Havre 
itself began to grow uneasy at the man's obstinacy, and 
a good many persons explained it by the phrase, ^^ Du- 
may is a Breton." As for the cashier, he thought 
Madame and Mademoiselle Mignon would be ill-lodged 
elsewhere. His two idols now inhabited a temple 
worthy of them ; the sumptuous little cottage gave 
them a home, where these dethroned royalties could 
keep the semblance of majesty about them, — a species 
of dignitj^ usually denied to those who have seen better 
days. 



Modeste Migmm, 13 

Perhaps as the story goes on, the reader will not re- 
gret having learned in advance a few particulars as to 
the home and the habitual companions of Modeste 
Mignon, for, at her age, people and things have as 
much influence upon the future life as a person's own 
character, — indeed, character often receives ineffaceable 
impressions from its surroundings. 



14 Modeste Mignon. 



CHAPTER II. 

A POBTBAIT FROM LIFE. 

From the manner with which the Latouraelles en- 
tered the Chalet a stranger would readily have guessed 
that they came there everj- evening. 

*' Ah, you are here already," said the notary, per- 
ceiving the young banker Gobenheim, a connection of 
Gobenheim-Keller, the head of the great banking-house 
in Paris. 

This young man with a livid face — • a blonde of the 
type with black eyes, whose immovable glance has an 
indescribable fascination, sober in speech as in con- 
duct, dressed in black, lean as a consumptive, but 
nevertheless vigorous!}' framed — visited the family 
of his former master and the house of his cashier less 
from affection than from self-interest. Here they played 
whist at two sous a point; a dress-coat was not re- 
quired ; he accepted no refreshment except eau sucree^ 
and consequently had no civilities to return. This ap- 
parent devotion to the Mignon family allowed it to be 
supposed that Gobenheim had a heart ; it also released 
him from the necessity of going into the society of 
Havre and incurring useless expenses, thus upsetting 
the orderl}^ economy of his domestic life. This dis- 
ciple of the golden calf went to . bed at half-past ten 
o'clock and got up at five in the morning. Moreover, 



Modeste Mignon. 15 

being perfectly sure of Latoamelle's and Butscha's dis- 
cretion, he could talk over difficult business matters, 
obtain the advice of the notary gratis, and get an inkling 
of the real truth of the gossip of the street This stolid ^ 
gold-glutton (the epithet is Butscha's) belonged by na- 
ture to the class of substances which chemistry terms 
absorbents. £yer since the caltastrophe of the house of 
Mignon, where the EeUera had placed him to learn the 
principles of maritime commerce, no one at the Chalet 
had ever asked him to do the smallest thing, no mat- 
ter what ; his reply was too well known. The young 
fellow looked at Modeste precisely as he would have 
looked at a cheap lithograph. 

^'He's one of the pistons of the big engine called 
* Commerce,'" said poor Butscha, whose clevier mind 
made itself felt occasionally by such little sayings 
timidly jerked out. 

The four Latoumelles bowed with the most respect- 
ful deference to an old lady dressed in black velvet, 
who did not rise from the armchair in which she was 
seated, for the reason that both eyes were covered wijh 
the yellow film produced by cataract. Madame Mignon 
may be sketched in one sentence. Her august coun- 
tenance of the mother of a family attracted instant 
notice as that of one whose irreproachable life defies the 
assaults of destiny, which nevertheless makes her the 
target of its arrows and a member of the unnumbered 
tribe of Niobes. Her blonde wig, carefully curled and 
well arranged upon her head, became the cold white 
face which resembled that of some bui^omaster's wife 
painted by Hals or Mirevelt The extreme neatness of 
her dress, the velvet boots, the lace collar, the shawl 




16 Modeste Jiffffnon. 

-^ 

evenly folded and put on, all bore testimony to the so- 
licitous care which Modeste bestowed upon her mother. 

When silence was, as the notary had predicted, re- 
stored in the pretty salon, Modeste, sitting beside her 
mother, for whom she was embroidering a kerchief, 
became for an instant the centre of observation. This 
curiosity, barely veiled by the commonplace salutations 
and inquiries of the visitors, would have revealed even 
to an indifferent person the existence of the domestic 
plot to which Modeste was expected to fall a victim ; 
but Gobenheim, more than indifferent, noticed nothing, 
and proceeded to light the candles on the card-table. 
The behavior, of Dumay made the whole scene terrify- 
ing to Butscha, to the Latoumelles, and above all to 
Madame Dumay, who knew her husband to be capable 
of firing a pistol at Modeste's lover as coolly as though 
he were a mad dog. 

After dinner that day the cashier had gone to walk 
followed by two magnificent Pyrenees hounds, whom he 
suspected of betra^dng him, and therefore left in charge 
of a farmer, a former tenant of Monsieur Mignon. On 
his return, just before the arrival of the Latoumelles, 
he had taken his pistols fh>m his bed's head and placed 
them on the chimney-piece, concealing this action ttom 
Modeste. The young girl took no notice whatever of 
these prepai*ations, singular as they were. 

Though short, tliick-set, pockmarked, and speaking 
always in a low voice as if listening to himself, this 
Breton, a former lieutenant in the Guard, showed the 
evidence of such resolution, such sang-froid on his face 
that throughout life, even in the army, no one had ever 
ventured to tnfle with him. His little eyes, of a calm 



Modeste Mignon. 17 

blue, were like bits of steel. His ways, the look on his 
face, his speech, his carriage, were all in keeping with 
the short name of Dumay. His physical strength, well- 
known to everyone, put him above all danger of at- 
tack. He was able to kill a man with a blow of his 
fist, and had performed that feat at Bautzen, where he 
found himself, unarmed, face to face with a Saxon at 
the rear of his company. At the present moment the 
usually firm yet gentle expression of the man's face 
had risen to a sort of tragic sublimity ; his lips were 
pale as the rest of his face, indicating a tumult within 
him mastered by his Breton will ; a slight sweat, which 
every one noticed and guessed to be cold, moistened 
his brow. The notary knew but too well that these 
signs might result in a drama before the criminal 
courts. In fact the cashier was plajing a part in con- 
nection with Modeste Mignon, which involved to his 
mind sentiments of honor and loyalty of far greater im- 
portance than mere social laws ; and his present con- 
duct proceeded from one of those compacts which, in 
case disaster came of it, could be judged only in a 
higher court than one of earth. The majority of dramas 
lie really in the ideas which we make to ourselves about 
things. Events which seem to us dramatic are nothing 
more than subjects which our souls convert into tragedy 
or comedy according to the bent of our characters. 

Madame Latournelle and Madame Dumay, who were 
appointed to watch Modeste, had a certain assumed stiff- 
ness of demeanor and a quiver in their voices, which the 
suspected party did not notice, so absorbed was she in 
her embroider}^ Modeste laid each thread of cotton 
with a precision that would have made an ordinary 

a 



18 Modeste Mignon. 

workwoman desperate. Her face expressed the pleas- 
are she took in the smooth petals of the flower she was 
working. The dwarf, seated between his mistress and 
Gobenheim, restrained his emotion, trying to find means 
to approach Modeste and whisper a word of warning 
in her ear. 

By taking a position in front of Madattie Mignon^ 
Madame Latonrnelle, with the diabolical intelligence of 
conscientious dntyi had isolated Modeste. Madame 
Mignon, whose blindness always made her silent, was 
even paler than usnal, showing plainly that she was 
aware of the test to which her daughter was about to 
be subjected. Perhaps at the last moment she revolted 
fh)m the stratagem, necessary as it might seem to her. 
Hence her silence ; she was weeping inwardly. Exupere, 
the spring of the trap, was wholly ignorant of the piece 
in which he was to play a part. Gk>benheim, by reason 
of his character, rema,ined in a . state of indifference 
equal to that displayed by Modeste. To a speotator 
who understood the situation, this contrast between the 
ignorance of some and the palpitating intei*est of others 
would have seemed quite poetic. Nowadays romance- 
writers arrange such effects ; and it is quite within their 
province to do so, for nature in all ages takes the 
liberty to be stronger than they. In this instance, as 
you will see, nature, social nature, which is a second 
nature within nature, amused herself by making truth 
more interesting than fiction; just as mountain tor- 
rents describe curves which are beyond the skill of 
painters to convey, and accomplish giant deeds in 
displacing or smoothing stones which are the wonder 
of architects and sculptors. 



Modeste Mi^non. 19 

It was eight o'clock* At that season twilight Was 
still shedding its last gleams ; there was not a cloud 
in the sky ; the balmy air paressed the earth, the flow- 
ers gave forth their fragrance, the steps of pedestrians 
turning homeward soanded along the gravelly road, the 
sea shone like a mirror, and there was so little wind that 
the wax candles upon the card-tables sent np a steady 
flame, although the windows were wide open. This 
salon, this evening, this dwelling —* what a frame for 
tiie portrait of the 3'onng girl whom these persons were 
now studying with the profound attention of a painter 
in presence of the Margharita Doni, one of the glories 
of the Pitti palace. Modeste, — blossom enclosed, 
like that of Catullus^ — was she worth all these pre- 
cautions ? 

Yoa have seen the cage; behold the bird! Just 
twenty years of age, slender and delicate as the sirens 
which English designers invent for their ^^ Books of 
Beauty," Modeste was, like her mother before her^ 
the captivating embodiment of a grace too little un- 
derstood in France, where we choose to call it sentimen- 
tality, bat which among German women is the poetry 
of the heart coming to the surface of the being and 
spending itself, — in affectations if the owner is silly, in 
divine charms of manner if she is spirittteUe and intelli- 
gent. Remarkable for her pale golden hair, Modeste 
belonged to the type of woman called, perhaps in mem- 
ory of Eve, the celestial blonde ; whose satiny skin is 
like a silk paper applied to the flesh, shuddering at the 
winter of a cold look, expanding in the sunshine of a 
loving glance, — teaching the hand to be jealous of the 
eye. Beneath her hair, which was soft and feathery 



20 Modeste Mignon. 

and worn in piany curls, the brow, which might have 
been taiced by a compass so pure was its modelling, 
shone forth discreet^ calm to placidity, and yet luminous 
with thought : when and where could another be found 
so transparently clear or more exquisitely smooth ? It 
seemed, like a pearl, to have its orient The eyes, of a 
blue verging on gray and limpid as the eyes of a child, 
had all the mischief, all the innocence of childhood, and 
they harmonized well with the arch of the e^^ebrows, 
faintly indicated by lines like those made with a brush 
on Chinese faces. This candor of the soul was still 
further evidenced around the eyes, in their corners, 
and about the temples, by pearl}' tints threaded with 
blue, the special privilege of these delicate complexions. 
The face, whose oval Raphael so often gave to his 
Madonnas, was remarkable for the sober and virginal 
tone of the ch*eeks, soft as a Bengal rose, upon which 
the long lashes of the diaphanous e^'elids cast shadows 
that were mingled with light. The throat, bending as 
she worked, too delicate perhaps, and of milky white- 
ness, recalled those vanishing lines that Lionardo loved. 
A few little blemishes here and there, like the patches 
of the eighteenth century, proved that Modeste was 
indeed a child of earth, and not a creation dreamed of 
in Italy by the angelic school. Her lips, delicate yet 
full, were slightly mocking and somewhat sensuous; 
the waist, which was supple and yet not fi*agile, had 
no terrors for maternity, like those of girls who seek 
beauty by the fatal pressure of a corset. Steel and 
dimity and lacings defined but did not create the ser- 
pentine lines of the elegant figure, graceful as that of 
a young poplar swaging in (he wind. 



Modeste Mignon. 21 

A pearl-gray dress with crimson trimmings, made 
with a long waist, modestly outlined the bast and cov- 
ered the shoulders, still rather thin, with a chemisette 
which left nothing to view but the first curves of the 
throat where it joined the shoulders. From the aspect 
of the young girl's face, at once ethereal and intelligent, 
where the delicacy of a Greek nose with its rosy nos- 
trils and firm modelling marked something positive and 
defined; where the poeti*y enthroned upon an almost 
mystic brow seemed belied at times by the pleasure- 
loving expression of the mouth ; where candor claimed 
the depths profound and varied of the eye, and disputed 
them with a spirit of irony that was trained and edu- 
cated, — from all these signs an observer would have 
felt that this 3*oung girl, with the keen, alert ear that 
waked at every sound, with a nostril open to catch the 
fragrance of the celestial flower of the Ideal, was des- 
tined to be the battlcrground of a struggle between the 
poesies of the dawn and the labors of the day ; between 
fancy and reality, the spirit and the life. Modeste was 
a pure young girl, inquisitive after knowledge, under- 
standing her destiny, and filled with chastity, — the 
Virgin of Spain rather than the Madonna of Raphael. 

She raised her head when she heard Dumay say to 
Exupere, *'Come here, young man." Seeing them 
together in the corner of the salon she supposed they 
were talking of some commission in Paris. Then she 
looked at the friends who surrounded her, as if surprised 
by their silence, and exclaimed in her natural manner, 
" Why are you not playing ? " — with a glance at the 
green table which the imposing Madame Latournelle 
caUed the " altar." 



22 Modeste Mignon. 

"Yes, let ns play," said Dumay, having sent off 
Exnpere. 

" Sit there, Batscha," said Madame Latournelle, sep- 
arating the head-clerk from the gronp aroand Madame 
Mignon and her daughter by the whole width of the 
table. 

*' And you, oome over here," said Dumay to his wife, 
making her sit close by him. 

Madame Dumay, a little American about thirty-six 
years of age, wiped her eyes furtively ; she adored Mo- 
deste, and feared a catastrophe. 

" You are not very lively this evening," remarked 
Modeste. 

" We are playing," said Gobenbeim, sorting his 
cards. 

No matter how interesting this situation may appeajr, 
it can be made still more so by explaining Dumay's 
position toward Modeste. If the brevity of this ex^ 
planation makes it seem rather dry, the reader must 
pardon its dryness in view of our desire to get through 
with these preliminaries as speedily as possible, and 
the necessity of relating the main circumstances which 
govern aU dramas. 



Modeste Mighon. 23 



CHAPTER m. 

FRELIMINABIES. 

JsAN Frak^ois Bernard Dumat, bom at Valines, 
started as a soldier for the army of Italy in 1799. His 
father, president of the revolutionary tribunal of that 
town, had displayed so mnch energy in his office that 
the place became too hot to hold the son when the par- 
ent) a pettifogging lawyer, perished on the scaffold after 
the ninth Thermidor. On the death of his mother, who 
died of the grief this catastrophe occasioned, Jean sold 
all that he possessed and rashed to Italy at the age of 
twenty-two, at the very moment when our armies were 
beginning to yield. On the way he met a young man in 
the department of Var, who for reasons analogous to his 
own was in search of glory, believing a battle-field less 
perilous than his own Provence. Charles Mignon, the 
last scion of an ancient family, which gave its name to 
a street in Paris and to a mansion built by Cardinal 
Mignon, had a shrewd and calculating father, whose 
one idea was to save his feudal estate of La Bastie in 
the Comtat from the claws of the Revolution. Like all 
timid folk of that day, the Comte de La Baslie, now 
citizen Mignon, found it more wholesome to cut ofi 
other people's heads than to let his own be cut off. 
The sham terrorist disappeared after the 9th Thermi- 
dor, and was then inscribed on the list of emigrea. The 



24 Modeste Mignon. 

estate of La Bastie was sold ; the towers and bastions 
of the old castle were palled down, and citizen Mignon 
was soon after discovered at Orleans and put to death 
with his wife and all his children except Charles, whom 
he had sent to find a refage for the family in the Upper 
Alps. 

Horrorstnick at the news, Charles waited for better 
times in a valley of Mont Grenevra ; and there he re- 
mained till 1799, subsisting on a few louis which his 
father had put into his hand at starting. Finally, 
when twenty-three years of age, and without other for- 
tune than his fine presence and that southern beauty 
which, when it reaches perfection, may be called sub- 
lime (of which Antinous, the favorite of Adrian, ie 
the type), Charles resolved to wager his Proven9al 
audacity -^taking it, like many another youth, for a vo- 
cation — on the red cloth of war. On his way to the base 
of the army at Nice he met the Breton. The pair be- 
came intimate, partly through the similarity of their 
fortunes, partly firom the contrasts in their characters ; 
they drank from the same cup at the wayside torrents, 
broke the same biscuit, and were both made sergeants 
at the peace which followed the battle of Marengo. 

When the war recommenced, Charles Mignon was 
promoted into the cavalry and lost sight of his com- 
rade. In 1812 the last of the Mignon de La Bastie 
was an officer of the Legion of honor and major of a 
regiment of cavalry. Taken prisoner by the Russians 
he was sent, like so many others, to Siberia. He 
made the journey in (X>mpan3' with another prisoner, a 
poor lieutenant, in whom he recognized his old friend 
Jean Dumay, brave, neglected, undecorated, unhappy, 



Modeste Migrton. 25 

like a million of other woollen epaulets, rank and file — 
that canvas of men on which Napoleon painted the 
picture of the Empire. While in Siberia, the lieutenant- 
colonel, to kill time, taught writing and arithmetic to 
the Breton, whose early education had seemed a use- 
less waste of time to Pere Scevola. Charles found in 
the old comrade of his marching days one of those rare 
hearts into which a man can pour his griefs while telling 
his joys. 

The young Provencal had met the fate which attends 
all handsome bachelors. In 1804, at Frankfort on the 
Main, he was adored by Bettina Wallenrod, only 
daughter of a banker, and he married her with all the 
more enthusiasm because she was rich and a noted 
beauty, while he was only a lieutenant with no pros- 
pects but the extremely problematical future of a sol- 
dier of fortune of that day. Old Wallenrod, a decayed 
German baron (there is always a baron in a German 
bank) delighted to know that the handsome lieutenant 
was the sole representative of the Mignon de La Bastie, 
approved the love of the blonde Bettina, whose beauty 
an artist (at that time there really was one in Frankfort) 
had lately painted as an.ideal head of Germany. Wallen- 
rod invested enough money in the French funds to give 
his daughter thirty thousand francs a year, and settled 
it on his anticipated grandsons, naming them counts of 
La Bastie-Wallenrod. This dot made only a small 
hole in his cash-box, the value of money being then 
very low. But the Empire, pursuing a policy often 
attempted by other debtors, rarely paid its dividends^ 
and Charles was rather alarmed at this investment, 
having less faith than his father-in-law in the imperial ^ 



26 Modeste Mignon. 

eagle. The phenomenon of belief, or of admirationi 
which is ephemeral belief, is not so easily maintained 
when in close quarters with the idol. The mechanic dis- 
trusts the machine which the traveller admires ; and the 
officers of the army might be called the stokers of the 
Napoleonic engine, -f^ if, indeed, they were not its fuel. 

However, the Baron Wallenrod-Tustall-Bartenstild 
promised to come if necessary to the help of tl^e house- 
hold. Charles loved Bettina Wallenrod as much as 
she loved him, and that is saying a good deal; but 
when a Provengal is moved to enthusiasm all his feel- 
ings and attachments are genuine and natural. And 
how could he fail to adore that blonde beauty, escai>- 
ing, as it were, from the canvas of Diirer, gifted with 
an angelic nature and endowed with Frankfort wealth? 
The pair had four children, of whom only two daugh- 
ters survived at the time when he poured his griefs 
into the Breton's heart. Dumay loved these litUe ones 
without having seen them, solely through the sympathy 
so well described by Charlet, which makes a soldier the 
father of every child. The eldest, named Bettina Caro- 
line, was bom in 1805 ; the other, Marie Modeste, in 
1808. The unfortunate lieutenant-colonel, long with- 
out tidings of these cherished darlings, was sent, at the 
peace of 1814, across Russia and Prussia on foot, 
accompanied by the lieutenant. No diflTerence of 
epaulets could count between the two friends, who 
reached Frankfort just as Napoleon was disembarking 
at Cannes. 

Charles found his wife in Frankfort, in mourning for 
her father, who had always idolized her and tried to 
keep a smile upon her lips, even by his dying bed. Old 



Modeste Mignen. 27 

Wallenrod was nnable to survive the disasters of the 
Empire. At seventy years of age he speculated in 
cottons, relying on the genius of Napoleon without 
comprehending that genius is quite as often beyond as 
at the bottom of current events. The old man had pur- 
chased nearly as many bales of cotton as the Emperor 
had lost men during his magnificent campaign in 
France. ^ I tie in goddon/' said the father to the 
daughter, a father of the Goriot type, sti'iving to quiet 
a grief which distressed him. " I owe no mann any- 
ding — " and he died, still trying to speak to his daugh- 
ter in the language that she loved. 

Thankful to have saved his wife and daughters from 
the general wreck, Charles Mignon returned to Paris, 
where the Emperor made him lieutenant-colonel in the 
cuirassiers of the Guard and commander of the Legion 
of honor. The colonel dreamed of being count and 
general after the first victory. Alas ! that hope was 
quenched in the blood of Waterloo. The colonel, 
slightly wounded, retired to the Loire, and left Tours 
before the disbandment of the army. 

In the spring of 1816 Charles sold his wife's prop- 
erty out of the fhnds to the amount of nearly four hun- 
dred thousand francs, intending to seek his fortune in 
America, and abandon his own country where persecu- 
tion was beginning to lay a heavy hand on the soldiers 
of Napoleon. He went to Havre accompanied by Du- 
may, whose life he had saved at Waterloo by taking 
him on the crupper of his saddle in the hurl^^-burly of 
the retreat. Dumay shared the opinions and the anxi- 
eties of his colonel; the poor fellow idolized the two 
little girls and followed Charles like a spaniel. The 



28 Modeste Mignon. 

latter, confident that the habit of obedience, the disci- 
pline of subordination, and the honesty and affection of 
the lieutenant would make him a useful as well as a 
faithful retainer, proposed to take him with him in a 
civil capacity. Dumay was only too happy to be 
adopted into the family, to which he resolved to ding 
like the mistletoe to an oak. 

While waiting for an opportunity to embark, at the 
same time making choice of a ship and reflecting on the 
chances offered by the various ports for which they 
sailed, the colonel heard much talk about the brilliant 
future which the peace seemed to promise to Havre. 
As he listened to these conversations among the mer- 
chants, he foresaw the means of fortune, and without 
loss of time he set about making himself the owner of 
landed property, a banker, and a shipping-merchant. 
He bought land and houses in the town, and de- 
spatched a vessel to New York freighted with silks 
purchased in Lyons at reduced prices. He sent Dumay 
on the ship as his agent ; and when the latter returned, 
after making a double profit by the sale of the silks and 
the purchase of cottons at a low valuation, he found 
the colonel installed with his family in the handsomest 
bouse in the rue Royale, and studying the principles 
of banking with the prodigious actiVi^ and intelligence 
of a native of Provence. 

This double operation of Dumay's was worth a for- 
tune to the house of Mignon. The colonel purchased 
the villa at Ingouville and rewarded his agent with the 
gift of a modest little house in «the rue Royale. The 
poor toiler had brought back from New York, together 
with his cottons, a pretty little wife, attracted it would 



Modeste Mignon* 29 

seem by his French nature. Miss Grummer was worth 
about four thousand dollars (twenty thousand francs), 
which sum Dumay placed with his colonel, to whom 
he DOW became an alter ego. In a short time he learned 
to keep his patron's books, a science which, to use his 
own expression, pertains to the sergeant-majors of com- 
merce. The simple-hearted soldier, whom fortune had 
forgotten for twenty years, thought himself the happiest 
man in the world as the owner of the little house (which 
his master's liberality had furnished), with twelve hun- 
dred francs a year from money in the funds, and a 
salary of three thousand six hundred. Never in his 
dreams had Lieutenant Dumay hoped for a situation 
so good as tills ; but greater still was the satisfaction 
he derived from the knowledge that his lucky enter- 
prise had been the pivot of good fortune to the richest 
commercial house in Havre. 

Madame Dumay, a rather pretty little American, had 
the misfortune to lose all her children at their birth ; 
and her last confinement was so disastrous as to deprive 
her of the hope of any other. She therefore attached 
herself to the two little Mignous, whom Dumay himseli 
loved, or would have loved, even better than his own 
children had they lived. Madame Dumay, whose par- 
ents were farmers accustomed to a life of economy, 
was quite satisfied to receive only two thousand four 
hundred francs for her own and her household expenses ; 
so that every year Dumay laid by two thousand and 
some extra hundreds with the house of Mignon. When 
the yearly accounts were made up the colonel always 
added something to this little store by way of acknowl- 
edging the cashier's services, until in 1824 the latter 



80 Modeste JiEffnan. 

had a credit of fifty-eight thousand fi^ncs. It waft then 
that Charles Mignon, Comte de La Bastie, a title he 
never used, crowned his cashier with the final happi- 
ness of residing at the Chalet, where at the time when 
this story begins Madame Mignon and her daughter 
were living in obscurity. 

The deplorable state of Madame Mignon's health was 
caused in part by the catastrophe to which the absence 
of her husband was due. Grief had taken three years 
to break down the docile German woman ; but it was a 
grief that gnawed at her heart like a worm at the core 
of a sound fruit. It is easy to reckon up its obvious 
causes. Two children, dying in infancy, had a double 
grave in a soul that could* never forget The exile of 
her husband to Siberia was to such a woman a daily 
death. The failure of the rich house of Wallenrod, and 
the death of her father, leaving his coffers empty, was to 
Bettina, then uncertain as to the fate of her husband, a 
terrible blow. The joy of Charles's return came near kill- 
ing the tender German flower. After that the second fall 
of the Empire and the proposed expatriation acted on her 
feelings like a renewed attack of the same fever. At 
last, however, after ten years of continual prosperity, the 
comforts of her house, which was the finest in Havre, the 
dinners, balls, and^flgtes of a prosperous merchant, 
the splendors, of the villa Mignon, the unbounded re- 
spect and consideration enjoyed by her husband, his 
absolute affection, giving her an unrivalled love in re- 
turn for her single-minded love for him, — all these things 
brought the poor woman back to life. At the moment 
when her doubts and fears at last left her, when she 
could look forward to the bright evening of her stormy 



Modeste Mignon. 81 

Hfe, a hidden catastrophe, buried in the heart of the 
family, and of which we shall presently make mention, 
came as the precursor of renewed trials. 

In January, 182d, on the day when Havre had un- 
animously chosen Charles Mignon as its deput}'', three 
letters, arriving from New York, Paris, and London 
fell with the destruction of a hammer upon the crystal 
palace of his prosperity. In an instant ruin like a 
vulture swooped down upon their happiness, just as the 
cold fell in 1812 upon the grand army in Russia. One 
night sufficed Charles Mignon to decide upon his course, 
and he spent it in settling his accounts with Dumay* 
All he owned, not excepting his furniture, would just 
suffice to pay his creditors. 

" Havre shall never see me doing nothing," said the 
colonel to the lieutenant. ^^ Dumay, I take j'our sixty 
thoasand francs at six per cent." 

" Three, my colonel." 

** At nothing, then," cried Mignon, peremptorily ; 
^^ you shall have your share in the profits of what I 
now undertake. The 'Modeste/ which is no longer 
mine, sails to-morrow, and I sail in her. I commit to 
you my wife and my daughter. I shall not write. No 
news must be taken as good news." 

Dumay, always subordinate, asked no questions of 
his colonel. ^' I think," he said to Latournelle with a 
knowing little glance^ ^^ that my colonel has a plan laid 
out." 

The following day at dfiwn he accompanied his mas- 
ter on board the ^^ Modeste " bound for Constantinople. 
There, on the poop of the vessel, the Breton said to the 
Frovengal, ^- 



32 Modeste Mignon. 

** What are your last commands, mj colonel?" 

^^That no man shall enter the Chalet,'' cried the 
father with strong emotion. " Dumay, guard my last 
child as though you were a bull-d(^. Death to the man 
who seduces another daughter I Fear nothing, not even 
the scaffold — I will be with you." 

*' My colonel, go in peace. I understand you. You 
shall find Mademoiselle Modeste on 3'our return such 
as you now give her to me, or I shall be dead. You 
know me, and you know your Pyrenees hounds. No 
man shall reach your daughter. Forgive me for troub- 
ling you with words." 

. The two soldiers clasped arms like men who had 
learned to understand each other in the solitudes of 
Siberia. 

On the same day the Havre *' Courier" published 
the following terrible, simple, energetic, and honorable 
notice : — 

*^ The hoase of Charles Mignon suspends payment. Bat 
the undersigned, assignees of the estate, undertake to pay all 
liabilities. On and after this date, holders of notes may ob- 
tain the usual discount. The sale of the landed estates will 
fully cover all current indebtedness. 

'* This notice is issued for the honor of the house, and to 
prevent any disturbance in the money-market of this town. 

** Monsieur Charles Mignon sailed this morning on the 
* Modeste ' for Asia Minor, leaving full powers with the un- 
dersigned to sell his whole property, both landed and per- 
sonal. 

Dumay, assignee of the Bank accounts, 
Latournelle, notary, assignee of the city and villa 

property, 
GoBENHEiM, assignee of the commercial property." 



Modeste Mignon, 83 

Latournelle owed his prosperity to the kindness of 
Monsiear Mignon, who lent him one hundred thousand 
francs in 1817 to buy the finest law practice in Havre. 
The poor man, who had no pecuniary means, was nearly 
forty 3^ears of age and saw no prospect of being other 
than head-clerk for the rest of his days. He was the 
only man in Havre whose devotion could be compared 
with Dumay's. As for Gobenheim, he profited by the 
liquidation to get a part of Monsieur Mignon's business, 
which lifted his own little bank into prominence. 

While unanimous regrets for the disaster were ex- 
pressed in counting-rooms, on the wharves, and in 
private houses, where praises of a man so irreproach- 
able, honorable, and beneficent filled every mouth, 
Latournelle and Dumay, silent and active as ants, sold 
land, turned property into money, paid the debts, and 
settled up everjthing. Vilquin showed a good deal of 
generosity in purchasing the villa, the town-house, and 
a farm ; and Latournelle made the most of his liberality 
by getting a good price out of him. Society wished to 
show civilities to Madame and Mademoiselle Mignon ; 
but they had already obeyed the father's last wishes 
and taken refuge in the Chalet, where the}' went on the 
very morning of his departure, the exact hour of which 
had been concealed from them. Not to be shaken in 
his resolution by his grief at parting, the brave man 
said farewell to his wife and daughter while they slept. 
Three hundred visiting cards were left at the house. 
A fortnight later, just as Charles had predicted, com- 
plete forgetfulness settled down upon the Chalet, and 
proved to these women the wisdom and dignity of hia 
command. 

3 



34 Modeste Mignon. 

Damay sent agents to represent his master in New 
York, Paris, and London^ and followed up the assign- 
ments of the three banking-houses whose failure had 
caused the ruin of the Havre house, thus realizing five 
hundred thou^nd francs between 1826 and 1828, aa 
eighth of Charles' whole fortune; then, according to 
the latter's^ directions given on the night of his depart- 
ure, he sent that sum to New York through the house 
of Mongenod to the credit of Monsieur Charles Mignon. 
All this was done with military obedience, except in a 
matter of withholding thirty thousand francs for the per- 
sonal expenses of Madame and Mademoiselle Mignon 
as the colonel had ordered him to do, but which Dumay 
did not do. The Breton sold his own little house for 
twenty thousand francs, which sum he gave to Madame 
Mignon, believing that the more capital he sent to his 
colonel the sooner the latter would return. 

"He might perish for the want of that thirty thou- 
sand francs," Dumay remarked to Latoumelle, who 
bought the little house at its full value, where an ap- 
partment was always kept ready for the inhabitants of 
the Chalet 



Modeste Mignon. 35 



CHAPTER IV. 

A SIMPLE STORY. 

Such was the result to the celebrated house of Mi- 
gnon at Havre of the crisis of 1825-26, which convulsed 
many of the principal business centres in Europe and 
caused the ruin of several Parisian bankers, among 
them (as those who remember that crisis will recall) 
the president of the chamber of commerce. 

We can now understand how this great disaster, 
coming (suddenly at the close of ten years of domestic 
happines9> wght well have been the death of Bettina 
Mignon, agaia separated from her husband and igno- 
rant of his fate, — *to her as adventurous and perilous as 
the exile to Siberia. But the grief which was dragging 
her to the grave was far other than these visible sor- 
rows. The caustic that was slowly eating into her 
heart lay beneath a stone in the little graveyard of In- 
gouville, on which was inscribed : — > 

BETTINA CAROLINE MIGNON. 

DIED AGED TWENTY-TWO. 
PRAT FOR HER. 

This inscription is to the young girl whom it covered 
what man}*^ another epitaph has been for the dead lying 
beneath them, — a table of contents to a hidden book. 



86 Mode$te Mignon. 

Here is the book, in its dreadful brevity ; and it will 
iexplain the oath exacted and taken when the colonel 
and the lieutenant bade each other farewell. 

A young man of charming appearance, named Charles 
d' Estournj^ came to Havre for the commonplace pur- 
pose of being near the sea, and there he saw Bettina 
Mignon. A soi-disant fashionable Parisian is never 
without introductions, and he was invited at the in- 
stance of a friend of the Mignons to a fete given at 
Ingouville. He fell in love with Bettina and with her 
fortune, and in three months he had done the work of 
seduction and enticed her away. The father of a family 
of daughters should no more allow a 3'oung man whom 
he does not know to enter his home than he should 
leave books and papers lying about which he has not 
read. A young girl's innocence is like milk, which a 
small matter turns sour, — a clap of thunder, an evil 
odor, a hot day, a mere breath. 

When Charles Mignon read his daughter's letter of 
farewell he instantly despatched Madame Dumay to 
Paris. The family gave out that a journey to another 
climate had suddenly been advised for Caroline by their 
ph^'sician; and the physician himself sustained the 
excuse, though unable to prevent some gossip in the 
society of Havre. " Such a vigorous young girl ! with 
the complexion of a Spaniard, and that black hair ! — 
she consumptive !" *' Yes, they say she committed 
some imprudence." " Ah, ah I " cried a Vilquin. " I 
am told she came back bathed in perspiration after 
riding on horseback, and drank iced water; at least, 
that is what Dr. Troussenard says." 

By the time Madame Dumay returned to Havre the 



Modeate Mignon. 87 

catastrophe of the failure had taken place, and society 
paid no further attention to tbe absence of Bettina or 
the return of the cashier's wife. At the beginning of 
1827 the newspapers rang with the trial of Charles 
iV Estoumy, who was found guilty of cheating at cards. 
The young corsair escaped into foreign parts without 
taking thought of Mademoiselle Mignon, who was of 
Uttle value to him since the failure of the bank. Bet- 
tina heard of his infamous desertion and of her father*s 
ruin almost at the same time. She returned home 
struck by death, and wasted away in a short time. at 
the Chalet. H^cjieath at^leastprotect^ her reputation. 
The illness that Monsieur Mignon alleged to be the 
cause of her absence, and the doctor's order which sent 
her to Nice were now generally believed. Up to the 
last moment the mother hoped to save her daughter's 
life. Bettina was her darUng and Modeste was the 
father's. There was something touching in the two 
preferences. Bettina was the image of Charles, just as 
Modeste was the reproduction of her mother. Both 
parents continued their love for each other in their 
children. Bettina, a daughter of Pi'ovence, inherited 
from her father the beautiful hair, black as a raven's 
wing, which distinguishes the women of the South, 
the brown eye, almond-shaped and brilliant as a star, 
the olive tint, the velvet skin as of some golden fruit, 
the arched instep, and the Spanish waist from which the 
short basque skirt fell crisply. Both mother and father 
were proud of the charming contrast between the sis- 
ters. '•^ A devil and an angel ! " they said to each other, 
laughing, little thinking it prophetic. 
After weeping for a month in the solitude of her 



38 Modeate Mignon. 

chamber, where she admitted no one, the^ifiother came 
forth at last with injured eyes. Before losing her sight 
altogether she persisted, against the wislies of her 
friends, in visiting her daughter's grave, on which she 
riveted her gaze in contemplation. That im^e re- 
mained vivid in the darkness which now fell upon her, 
just as the red spectrum of an object shines in our 
eyes when we close them in full daylight. This ter- 
rible and double misfortune made Dumay, not less 
devoted, but more anxious about Modeste, now the 
only daughter of the father who was unaware of his 
loss. Madame Dumay, idolizing Modeste, like other 
women deprived of their children, cast her motherliness 
about the girl, — yet without disregarding the com- 
mands of her husband, whodjstmsted femalcJintimagifig> 
Those commands were brief. " If any man, of any age, 
or any rank," Dumay said, " speaks to Modeste, ogles 
her, makes love to her, he is a dead man. I 'U blow his 
brains out and give myself up to the authorities ; my 
death may save her. If you don't wish to see mj' head 
cut off, do you take my place in watching her when I 
am obliged to go out." 

For the last three years Dumay had examined his 
pistols every night He seemed to have put half the 
burden of his oath upon the Pyrenean hounds, two 
animals of uncommon sagacity. One slept inside the 
Chalet, the other was stationed in a kennel which he 
never left, and where he never barked; but terrible 
would have been the moment had the pair made their 
teeth meet in some unknown adventurer. 

We can now imagine the sort of life led by mother 
and daughter at the Chalet. Monsieur and Madamo 



Modeste Mignon. 89 

Latournelle, often accompanied by Gobenheim, came 
to call and pla^' whist with Dumay nearly every even- 
ing. The conversation turned on the gossip of Havre 
and the petty events of provincial life. The little com- 
pany separated between nine and ten o'clock. Modeste 
put her motiier to bed, and together they said their 
prayers, kept up each other's courage, and talked of 
the dear absent one, the husband and father. After kiss- 
ing her mother for good-night, the girl went to her own 
room about ten o'clock. The next morning she prepared 
her mother for the day with the same care, the same 
prayers, the same prattle. To her praise be it said 
that from the day when the terrible infirmity deprived 
her mother of a sense, Modeste had been like a servant 
to her, displaying at all times the same solicitude; 
never wearying of the duty, never thinking it monoto- 
nous. Such constant devotion, combined with a tender- 
ness rare among young girls, was thoroughly appreciated 
by those who witnessed it. To the LatoumeUe-itwnily, 
and to Monsieur an^ Madame Pumayj Modeste was, 
in fioul^ the pearl of price. 

On sunny days, between breakfast and dinner, 
Madame Mignon and Madame Dumay took a little 
walk toward the sea. Modeste accompanied them, for 
two arms were needed to support the blind mother. 
About a month before the scene to which this expla- 
nation is a parenthesis, Madame Mignon had taken 
counsel with her friends, Madame Latournelle, the 
notary, and Dumay, while Madame Duma}^ carried 
Modeste in another direction for a longer walk. , 

'' Listen to what I have to say," said the blind j 
woman. " My daughter is in love. I feel it ; I see it. ( 



40 Modeste Mignon. 

A singular change has taken place within her, and I do 
not see how it is that none of j'ou have perceived it." 

"In the name of all that's honorable — "cried the 
lieutenant. 

" Don't interrupt me, Dumay. For the last two 
months Modeste takes as much care of her personal 
appearance as if she expected to meet a lover. She 
has grown extremely fastidious about her shoes; she 
wants to set off her pretty feet ; she scolds Madame 
Gobet, t>ke shoemaker. It is the same thing with her 
milliner. Some days my poor darling is absorbed in 
thought, t»vidently expectant, as if waiting for some 
one. Her voice has curt tones when she answers a 
question, as though she were interrupted in the cur- 
rent of her thoughts and secret expectations. Then, if 
this awaited lover has oome — " 

** Good heavens J *' 

" Sit down, Dumay/* said the blind woman. "Well, 
then Modeste is gay. Oh! she is not gay to your 
sight ; you cannot catch these grio^ations ; they are too 
delicate for eyes that see onl}' the outside of nature; 
Her gayety is betrayed to me by the tones of her voice, 
by certain accents which I alone ca:^ catch and under- 
stand. Modeste then, instead of sittlug still and 
thoughtful, gives vent to a wild, inward activity by 
impulsive movements, — ^^in short, she. is happv^ Thcro 
is a grace, a charm in the very ideas she utters. AL, 
my friends, I know happiness as well as I know sor- 
row ; I know its signs. By the kiss my Modeste give^ 
me I can guess what is passing within her. I kno\^ 
whether she has received what she was looking for, o^ 
whether she is uneasy and expectant. There are manj 



Modeste Mignon. 41 

gradations in a kiss, eyen in that of an innocent jonng 
girl, and Modeste is innocence itself; but hers is the 
innocence of knowledge, not of ignorance. I may be / 
blind, bnt my tenderness is all-seeing, and I charge f 
3*ou to watch over my daughter.'' 

Duma}^, now actually ferocious, the notary, in the 
character of a man bound to ferret out a mystery, Ma- 
dame Latonrnelle, the deceived chaperone, and Madame 
Dumay, alarmed for her husband's safety, became at { 
once a set of spies, and M odeste fr oni^this day forth was 
never left alone for an instant. Dumay passed nights I 
under her window wrapped in his cloak like a jealous ^ 
Spaniard; but with all his military sagacity he was 
unable to detect the least suspicious sign. Unless she 
loved the nightingales in the villa park, or some fairy 
prince, Modeste could have seen no one, and had 
neither given nor received a signal. Madame Duma3% 
who never went to bed till she knew Modeste was 
asleep, watched the road from the upper windows of 
the Chalet with a vigilance equal to her husband's. 
Under these eight Argus eyes the blameless child, whose 
every motion was studied and analyzed, came out of 
the ordeal so fully acquitted of all criminal conversation 
that the four friends declared to each other privately 
that Madame Mignon was foolishly over-anxious. 
Madame Latonrnelle, who always took Modeste to 
church and brought her back again, was commissioned 
to tell the mother that she was mistaken about her 
daughter. 

'* Modeste," she said, *'is a young girl of very ex- 
alted ideas ; she works herself into enthusiasm for the 
poetry of one writer or the prose of another. You 



42 Modeste Mignon. 

have only to judge by the impression made upon her by 
that scaffold symphon}-, ' The Last Hours of a Convict td' 
[the saying was Butscha's, who supplied wit to his bene- 
factress with a lavish hand] ; she seemed to me all but . 
crazy with admiration for that Monsieur Hugo. I*m 
sure I don't know where such people [Victor Hugo, 
Lamartine, Byron being audi people to the Madame 
Latournelles of the bourgeoisie] get their ideas. Mo- 
deste kept talking to me of Childe Harold, and as I did 
not wish to get the worst of the argument I was silly 
enough to try to read the thing. Perhaps it was the 
fault of the translator, but it actually turned my stom- 
ach ; I was dazed ; I could n't possibly finish it. Why, 
the man talks about comparisons that howl, rocks that 
faint, and waves of war ! However, he is only a trav- 
elling Englishman, and we must expect absurdities, — . 
though his are really inexcusable. He takes you to 
Spain, and sets you in the clouds above the Alps, and 
makes the torrents talk, and the stars ; and he saj s there 
are too many virgins! Did you ever hear the like? 
Then, after Napoleon's campaigns, the lines are full of 
sonorous brass and flaming cannon-balls, rolling along 
from page to page. Modeste tells me that all that 
bathos is put in by the translator, and that I ought to 
read the book in English. But I certainly sha'n't learn 
English to read Lord Byron when I didn't learn it 
to teach Exupere. I much prefer the novels of Ducra}'- 
Dumenil to all these English romances. I'm too good 
a Norman to fall in love with foreign things, — above 
all when they come from England." 

Madame Mignon, notwithstanding her melancholy, 
could not help smiling at the idea of Madame Latournelle 



Modeste Mignon. 43 

reading Childe Harold. The stem scion of a parlia- 
mentary house accepted the smile as an approval of 
her doctrines. 

** And, therefore, my dear Madame Mignon," she 
went on, " you have taken Modeste's fancies, which are 
nothing but the results oX,her readings for a love^ffiiir. 
Remember, she is just twenty. Girls fall in love with 
th em8e lvfifl.jBl..that agej they dress to siee themselves' 
well-dressed. I remember I used to make my little 
sister, now dead, put on a man's hat and pretend we 
were monsieur and madame. You see, 3'ou had a very 
happy youth in Frankfort ; but let us be just, — Mo- 
AMfs^ iR IJYing hftre withont the aliprhtfipt. ftmnapmAnf. 
Although, to be sure, her every wish is attended to, still 
she knows she is shut up and watched, and the life she 
leads would give her no pleasures at all if it were not 
for the amusement she gets out of her books. Come, 
don't worry yourself ; she^joyea nobodyJbat-you. You 
ought to be very glad that she goes into -these enthu- 
siasms for the corsairs of Byron and the heroes of 
Walter Scott and your own Germans, Egmont, Goethe, 
Werther, Schiller, and all the other ' ers.' " 

** Well, madame, what do you say to that ?" asked 
Duma}^ respectfully, alarmed at Madame Mignon's 
silence. 

'^ Modeste is not only inclined to love, but she loves 
some man," answered the mother, obstinately'. 

*< Madame, my life is at stake, and you must allow 
me — not for my sake, but for my wife, my colonel, for 
all of us — to probe this matter to the bottom, and find 
out whether it is the mother or the watch-dog who is ( 
deceived." 



44 Modest e Mignon. 

"It is 3'ou who are deceived, Damay. Ah! if I 
could but see my daughter ! " cried the poor woman. 

" But whom is it possible for her to love ? " asked the 
notary. " I '11 answer for my Exupere." 

*'It can't be Gobenheim," said Dumay, "for since 
the colonel's departure he has not spent nine hours 
a week in this house. Besides, he doesn't even no- 
tice Modeste — that five-franc-piece of a man! His 
uncle Gobenheim-Keller is all the time writing him, 
* Get rich enough to marry a Keller.' With that idea 
in his mind you may be sure he does n't know which 
sex Modeste belongs to. No other men ever come 
here, — for of course I don't count Butscha, poor little 
fellow ; I love him ! He is your Dumay, madame," 
said the cashier to Madame Latounielle. " Butscha 
knows very well that a mere glance at Modeste would 
cost him a Breton ducking. Not a soul has any com- 
munication with this house. Madame Latoumelle who 
takes Modeste to church ever since your — your great 
misfortune, madame, has carefully watched her on the 
way and all through the service, and has seen nothing 
suspicious. In short, if I must confess the truth, I 
have myself raked all the paths about the house ever}' 
evening for the last month, and found no trace of foot- 
steps in the morning." 

" Rakes are neither costly nor difficult to handle," 
remarked the daughter of Germany. 

" But the dogs ? " cried Dumay. 

" Lovers have philters for even dogs," answered Ma- 
dame Mignon. 

'* If you are right, my honor is lost ! I may as well 
blow m}' brains out," exclaimed Dumay. 



Modeate Mignon. 45 

" Why so, Dumay ? " said the blind woman. 

" Ah, madame, I could never meet my colonel's eye 
if he did not find his daughter — now his only daugh- 
ter — as pure and virtuous as she was when he said to 
me on the vessel, ' Let no fear of the scaffold hinder 
you, Dumay, if the honorof my Modeste is at stake/ " 

^^ Ah ! I recognize you both," said Madame Mignon 
in a voice of strong emotion. 

" I 'U wager my salvation that Modeste is as pure as 
she was in her cradle," exclaimed Madame Duma3\ 

" Well, I shall make certain of it," replied her hus- 
band, '^ if Madame la Comtesse will allow me to employ 
certain means ; for old troopers understand strategy." 

^ I will allow you to do anything that shall enlighten 
us, provided it does no injury to my last child." 

" What are you going to do, Jean ? " asked Madame 
Dumay ; " how can you discover a young girl's secret 
if she means to hide it ? " 

** Obey me, all ! " cried the lieutenant, " I shall need 
every one of you." 

If this rapid sketch were cleverly developed it would 
give a whole picture of manners and customs in which 
many a family CQuld recognize the events of their own 
history; but it must suffice as it is to explain the 
importance of the few details heretofore given about 
persons and things on the memorable evening when the 
old soldier had made ready his plot against the young 
girl, intending to wrench from the recesses of her heart 
the secret of a love and a lover seen only by a blind 
mother. 



46 Modeate Mignon. 



CHAPTER V. 

THE PROBLEM STILL UHSOLYED. 

An hour went by in solemn stillness broken only 
by the cabalistic phrases of the whist - players i 
*' Spades ! " '' Trumped ! " " Cut ! " '' How are honors ? " 
"Two to four." ''Whose deal?" — phrases which repre- 
sent in these days the higher emotions of the European 
aristocracy. Modeste continued to work, without seem- 
ing to be surprised at her mother's silence. Madame 
Mignon's handkerchief slipped from her lap to the floor ; 
Butscha precipitated himself upon it, picked it up, and 
as he returned it whispered in Modeste's ear, " Take 
care ! " Modeste raised a pair of wondering eyes, 
whose puzzled glance filled the poor cripple with joy 
unspeakable. " She is not in love ! " he whispered to 
himself, rubbing his hands till the skin was nearly 
peeled off. At this moment Exupere tore through the 
garden and the house, plunged into the salon like an 
avalanche, and said to Dumay in an audible whisper, 
''The young man is here!" Dumay sprang for his 
pistols and rushed out. 

" Good God ! suppose he kills him ! " cried Madame 
Dumay, bursting into tears. 

"What is the matter? " asked Modeste, looking inno- 
cently at her friends and not betraying the slightest 
fear. 



Modeste Mignon. 47 

^' It is all about a young man who is hanging round 
the house," cried Madame Latournelle. 

**Well!" said Modeste, "why should Dumay kill 
him?" 

" Sancta simplidtaf" ejaculated Butscha, looking 
at his master as proudly as Alexander is made to con- 
template Babj'lon in Lebrun's great picture. 

*' Whpre are you going, Modeste? " asked the mother 
as her daughter rose to leave the room. 

**To get ready for- your bedtime, mamma," an- 1 
swered Modeste, in a voice as pure as the tones of 
an instrument. ^ 

" You have n't paid your expenses," said the dwarf 
to Dumay when he returned. 

" Modeste is_a8 pure as the Vii-gin on our altar," 
crieolSadame Latournelle. 

*' Good God ! such excitements wear me out," said 
Dumay ; *' and yet I 'm a strong man." 

*' May I lose that twenty-five sous if I have the 
slightest idea what you are about," remarked Gobeu- 
heim. '' You seem to me to be crazy." 

" And yet it is all about a treasure," said Butscha, 
standing on tiptoe to whisper in Grobenheim's ear. 

" Dumay, I am sorry to say that I am still almost 
certain of what I told you," persisted Madame Mignon. 

"The burden of proof is now on you, madame," 
said Dumay, calmly ; *' it is for you to prove that we 
are mistaken." 

Discovering that the matter in question was only 
Modeste's honor, Gobenheim took his hat, made hl« 
bow, and walked off, carrying his ten sous with him* -^ 
there being evidently no hope of another rubber. 



48 Modeste Mignon. 

"Exupere, and you too, Butscha, may leave us," 
said Madame Latournelle. " Go back to Havre; you 
will get there in time for the last piece at the theatre. 
I '11 pay for your tickets." 

When the four friends were alone with Madame 
Mignon, Madame Latournelle, after looking at Dumaj^, 
who being a Breton understood the mother's obstinacy, 
and at her husband who was fingering the cards, felt 
herself authorized to speak up. 

'^ Madame Mignon, come now, tell us what decisive 
thing has struck j'our mind." 

'* Ah, my good friend, if you were a musician you 
would have heard, as I have, the langu^e of love that 
Modeste speaks." 

The piano of the demoiselles Mignon was among the 
few articles of furniture which had been moved from 
the town-house to the Chalet. Modeste often conjured 
away her troubles by practising, without a master. 
Born a musician^ she plaj'ed to enliven her mother. 
She sang by nature, and loved the German airs which 
her mother taught her. From these lessons and these 
attempts at self-instruction came a phenomenon not 
uncommon to natures with a musical vocation ; Modeste 
composed, as far as a person ignorant of tlie laws of har- 
mon}" can be said to compose, tender little lyric melo- 
dies. Melody is to music what imagery and sentiment 
are to poetry, a flower that blossoms spontaneously. 
Consequentlj^ nations have had melodies before har- 
mony, — botany comes later than the flower. In like 
manner, Modeste, who knew nothing of the painter's 
art except what she had seen her sister do in the way 
of water-color, would have stood subdued and fasd- 



Modeste Mignon. 49 

nated before the pietores of Raphael, Titian, Rubens, 
Murillo, Rembrandt, Albert Diirer, Holbein, — in other 
words, before the great ideals of many lands. Lately, 
for at least a month, Modeste had warbled the songs 
of nightingales, musical rhapsodies whose poetry and 
meaning had roused the attention of her mother, al- 
ready surprised by her sudden eagerness for composition 
and her fancy for putting airs to certain verses. 

" If your suspicions have no other foundation,'' said 
Latoumelle to Madame Mignon, ^^I pity your suscep- 
tibilities." 

*' When a Breton girl sings," said Dumay gloomily, 
*' the lover is not far off." 

*' I will let you hear Modeste when she is impro- 
vising," said the mother, " and you shall judge for 
yourselves — " 

"Poor girl! "said Madame Dumay, "If she only 
knew our anxiety she would be deeply distressed ; she 
would tell us the truth, — especially if she thought it 
would save Dumay." 

"My friends, I wiU question my daughter to-morrow," \ 
said Madame Mignon ; " perhaps I shall obtain more 
by tenderness than you have discovered by trickery." 

Was the comedy of the " Fille mal Gard^e " being 
played here, — as it is everywhere and forever, — under 
the noses of these faithful spies, these honest Bartholos, 
these Pyrenean hounds, without their being able to 
ferret out, detect, nor even surmise the lover, the love- 
affair, or the smoke of the fire? At any rate it was 
certainly not the result of a struggle between the jail- 
ers and the prisoner, between the despotism of a 
dungeon and the liberty of a victim, — it was simply 
4 



50 Modeste Mignon. 

the nevei*-ending repetition of the first scene played by 
man when the curtain of the Creation rose ; it was Eve 
in Paradise. 

And now, which of the two, the mother or the watch- 
dog, had the right of it ? 

None of the perscHis who were about Modeste could 
understand that maiden heart — for the soul and the 
face we have described were in harmony. The girl had 
transported her existence into another world, as much 
denied and disbelieved in in these days of ours as the 
new world of Christopher Columbus in the sixteenth 
bentury. Happily, she kept her own counsel, or they 
would have thought her crazy. But first we must 
explain the influence of the past upon her nature. 

Two events had formed the soul and developed the 
mind of this young girl. Monsieur and Madame 
Mignon, warned by the fate that overtook Bettina, 
had resolved, just before the failure, to marry Modeste. 
They chose the son of a rich banker, formerly of Ham- 
burg, but established in Havre since 1815, — a man, 
moreover, who was under obligations to them. The 
young man, whose name was Francisque Althor, the 
dandy of Havre, blessed with a certain vulgar beauty 
in which the middle classes delight, well-made, well- 
fieshed, and with a fine complexion, abandoned his 
betrothed so hastily on the day of her father's failure 
that neither Modeste nor her mother nor either of the 
Dumays had seen him since. Latounielle ventured a 
question on the subject to Jacob Althor, the father; 
but he only shrugged his shoulders and replied, " I 
really don't know what you mean." 

This answer, told to Modeste to give her some expe- 



Modeste Mignan. 51 

rienoe of life, was a lesson which she learned all the 
more readily because Latournelle and Damay made 
many and long comments on the cowardly desertion. 
The daughters of Charles Mignon, like spoiled children, 
had all their wishes gi*atified ; they rode on horseback, 
kept their own horses and grooms, and otherwise en- 
joyed a perilous liberty. Seeing herself in possession 
of an official lover, Modeste had allowed Francisque to 
kiss her hand, and take her by the waist to mount her. 
She accepted his flowers and all the little proofs of 
tenderness with which it is proper to surround the 
lady of our choice ; she even worked him a purse, be- 
lieving in such ties, — strong indeed to noble souls, but 
cobwebs for the Gobenheims, the Vilquins, and the 
Althors. 

Some time during the spring which followed the re- 
moval of Madame Mignon and her daughter to the 
Chidet, Francisque Althor came to dine with the Vil- 
quins. Happening to see Modeste over the wall at the 
foot of the lawn, he turned away his head. Six weeks 
later he married the eldest Mademoiselle Vilquin. In 
this way Modeste, young, beautiful, and of high birth, 
learned the lesson iha,t for three whole months of her 
engagement she had been nothing more than Made- 
moiselle Million. Her poverty, well known to all, be- 
came a sentinel defending the approaches to the Chalet 
fully as well as the prudence of the Latournelles or the 
vigilance of Dumay. The talk of the town ran for a 
time on Mademoiselle Mignon's position only to insult 
her. 

"Poor girl! what will become of her? — an old 
maid, of course." 



,52 Modeste Mignon. 

" What a fate ! to have had the world at her feet ; 
to have had the chance to marry Francisque Althor, — 
• and now, nobody willing to take her ! " 
^ "After a life of luxury, to come down to such 
poverty — " 

And these insults were not uttered in secret or left 
to Modeste's imagination ; she heard them spoken more 
than once by the young men and the young women of 
Havre as they walked to Ingouville, and, knowing that 
Madame Mignon and her daughter lived at the Chalet, 
talked of them as they passed the house. Priends of 
the Vilquins expressed surprise that the mother and 
daughter were willing to live on among the scenes of 
their former splendor. From her open window behind 
the closed blinds Modeste sometimes heard such inso- 
lence as this: — 

" I am sure I can't think how they can live 
there," some one would say as he paced the villa 
lawn, — perhaps to assist Vilquin in getting rid of 
his tenant. 

" What do you suppose they live on? they haven't 
any means of earning money." 

" I am told the old woman has gone blind." 

'*Is Mademoiselle Mignon still pretty? Dear me, 
how dashing she used to be I Well, she hasn't anj 
horses now." 

Most young girls on hearing these spiteful and silly 
speeches, born of an envy that now rushed, peevish and 
drivelling, to avenge the past, would have felt the blood 
mount to their foreheads; others would have wept; 
some would have undergone spasms of anger; but 
Modeste smiled, as we smile at the theatre while watch- 



Modeste Mignon. 53 

ing the actors* Her pride could not descend so low as 
the level of sach speeches. \ 

The other event was more serious than these merce- 
nary meannesses. Bettina Caroline died in the arms 
of her younger sister, who had nursed her with the 
devotion of girlhood, and the curiosity of an untainted 
imagination. In the silence of long nights the sisters 
exchanged many a confidence. With what dramatic 
Interest was poor Bettina invested in the eyes of the 
innocent Modeste? Bettina knew love through sorrow 
only, and she was dying of it. Among young girls 
every man, scoundrel though he be, is still a lover. 
Passion is the one thing absolutely real in the things 
of life, and it insists on its supremacy* Charles 
d'Estourny, gambler, criminal, and debauchee, remained 
in the memory of the sisters, the elegant Parisian of 
the fites of Havre, the admired of the womenkind. 
Bettina believed she had carried him off from the co- 
quettish Madame Yilquin, and to Modeste he was her 
sister's happy lover. Such adoration in young girls is i 
stronger than all social condemnations. To Bettina's ' 
thinking, justice had been deceive d ; if not, how could 
it have sentenced a man who had loved her for six 
months? — loved her to distraction in the hidden retreat 
to which he had taken her, — that he might, we may 
add, be at liberty to go his own way. Thus the dying 
girl inoculated her sister with love. Together they 
talked of the great drama which imagination enhances ; ' 
and Bettina carried with her to the grave her sister's 
ignorance, leaving her, if not informed, at least thirst- 
ing for information. 

Nevertheless, remorse had set its fangs too sharply 



54 Modeste Mignon. 

in Bettina's heart not to force her to warn her sister. 
In the midst of her own confessions she had preached 
duty and implicit obedience to Modeste. On the even- 
ing of her death she implored her to remember the 
tears that soaked her pillow, and not to imitate a con- 
duct which even suffering could not expiate. Bettina 
accused herself of bringing a curse u^n the family, 
and died in despair at being unable to obtain her 
father's pardon. Notwithstanding the consolations 
which the ministers of religion, touched by her repent- 
ance, freely gave her, she cried in heartrending tones 
^with her latest breath: "O father! father I" "Never 
\ give your heart without your hand," she said to Modeste 
^' an hour before she died; ^^and above all, accept no 
. attentions from any man without telling everything to 
1 papa and mamma." 

These words, so earnest in their practical meaning, 
uttered in the hour of death, had more effect upon 
Modeste than if Bettina had exacted a solemn oath. 
The dying girl, farseeing as a prophet, drew from be* 
neath her pillow a ring which she had sent by her faith-* 
ful maid, Fran^oise Cochet, to be engraved in Havre 
with these woi-ds, "Think of Bettina, 1827," and 
placed it on her sister's finger, begging her to keep it 
there until she married. Thus there had been between 
these two young girls a strange commingling of bitter 
remorse and the artless visions of a fleeting spring-time 
too early blighted by the keen north wind of desertion ; 
yet all their tears, regrets, and memories were always 
subordinate to their horror of evil. 

Nevertheless, this drama of a poor seduced sister 
returning to die under a roof of elegant poverty, the 



Modeste Mignon. 55 

failure of her fiE^ther^ the baseness of her betrothed, the 
bliudness of her mother caused by grief, had touched 
the surface only of Modeste's life, by which alone the 
Dumays and the Xiatournelles judged her ; for no devo- 
tion of friencjs can take the place of a mother^s eye. The 
monotonous life in the daint}^ little Chalet, surrounded 
by the choice flowers which Dumay cultivated; the 
family customs, as regular as clock-work, the provincial 
decorum, the games at whist while the mother knitted 
and the daughter sewed, the silence, broken only by 
the roar of the sea in the equinoctial storms, — all this 
monastic tranquillity did in fact hide an inner and 
tumultuous life, the life of ideas, the life of the spirit- 
ual being. We sometimes wonder how it is possible 
for young girls to do w:rong ; but such as do so have no 
blind mother to send her plummet line of intuition to 
the depths of the subterranean fancies of a virgin heart 
The Dumays slept when Modeste opened her window, 
as it were to watch for the passing of a man, — the man 
of her dreams, the expected knight who was to mount i 
her behind him and ride away under the fire of Dumay's i 
pistds. ^ 

During the deiH*ession caused by her sister's death 
Modeste flung herself into the practice of reading, until 
her mind became sodden in it. Born to the use of two 
languages, she could apeak and read German quite as 
well as French ; she had also, together with her sister, 
learQed English fron^ Madame Dumay. Being very 
little overlooked in the matter of reading by the people 
about her, who had no literary knowledge, Modeste fed 
her soul on the modern masterpieces of three literatures, 
English, French, and German. Lord Byron, Goethe, 



66 Modeite Mignon. 

Schiller, Walter Scott, Hugo, Lamartine, Crabbe, Moore, 
the great works of the 17th and 18th centuries, his- 
tory, drama, and fiction, from Astrsea to Manon Les- 
caut, from Montaigne's Essays to Diderot, from the 
Fabliaux to the Nouvelle H^lolse, — in shorty the 
thought of three lands crowded with confused images 
that girlish head, august in its cold guilelessness, its 
native chastity, but fh>m which there sprang full-armed, 
brilliant, sincere, and strong, an overwhelming admira- 
tion for genius. To Modeste a new book was an 
event ; a masterpiece that would have horrified Madame 
Latoumelle made her happy, — equally unhappy if the 
great work did, not play havoc with her heart A 
lyric instinct bubbled in that girlish soul, so full of the 
beautiful iUusions of its youth. But of this radiant 
existence not a gleam reached the surface of daily life ; 
it escaped the ken of Dumay and his wife and the 
Latoumelles ; the ears of the blind mother alone caught 
the crackling of its flame. 

The profound disdain which Modeste now conceived 
for ordinary men gave to her face a look of pride, an 
inexpressible untamed shyness, which tempered her 
Teutonic simplicity, and accorded well with a pecu- 
liarity of her head. The hair growing in a point above 
the forehead seemed the continuation of a slight line 
which thought had already ftirrowed between the eye- 
brows, and made the expression of untamability per- 
haps a shade too strong. The voice of this charming 
child, whom her father, delighting in her wit, was wont 
to call his ** little proverb of Solomon," had acquired a 
precious flexibility of organ through the practice of 
three languages. This advantage was still fhrther en- 



Modeste Mignan* 67 

hanced by a natural bell-like tone both sweet and fresh, 
which touched the heart as delightfully as it did the ear. 
If the mother could no longer see the signs of a noble 
destiny upon her daughter's brow, she could study the 
transitions of her soul's development in the accents of 
that voice attuned to love. 



5d ModeBte Migrkon, 



CHAPTER VL 

A maiden's fibst bomance. 

To this period of Modeste's eager rage for reading 
succeeded the exercise of a strange faculty given to 
vigorous imaginations, — t he power, namely, of making 
^ ^herself wi^ctor in a dream-fixiatenqe ; of representing 
to her own mind the things desired, with so vivid a con- 
ception that they seemed actually to attain reality ; in 
short, Jo egjoy byihought, — to live out her years within 
her mind ; to marry ; to grow old ; to attend her own 
funeral like Charles V. ; to play within herself the com- 
edy of life and, if need be, that of death. Modeste 
was indeed plajdngi but all alone* the, co medy of Love . 
She fancied herself adored to the summit of her wishes 
in many an imagined phase of social life. Sometimes 
as the heroine of a dark romance, she loved the execu- 
tioner, or the wretch who ended his days upon the 
sca^ld, or, like her sister, some Parisian youth with- 
out a penny, whose struggles were all beneath a garret- 
roof. Sometimes she was Ninon, scorning men amid 
' continual f^tes ; or some applauded actress, or gay ad- 

venturess, exhausting in her own behalf the luck of Gil 
Bias, or the triumphs of Pasta, Malibran, and Florine. 
Then, wearj'^ of horrors and excitements, she returned 
\\ to actual life. She married a notary, she ate the plain 
brown bread of honest every-day life, she saw herself a 



Modeste Migndn, 59 

Madame Latonrnelle ; she accepted a palnAil existence, 
she bore all the trials of a struggle with fortane. After 
that she went back to the romances : she was loved for 
her beauty ; a son of a peer of France, an eccentric, 
artistic young man, divined her heart, recognized the 
star which the genius of a De Stael had planted on her 
brow. Her father returned^ possessing millions. With 
his permission, she put her various lovers to certain 
tests (always carefully guarding her own independence) ; 
she owned a magnificent estate and castle, servants, 
horses, carriages, the choicest of everything that lux- 
ury could bestow, and kept her suitors uncertain until 
she was forty years old, at which i^e she made her 
choice. 

This edition of the Arabian Nights in a single copy 
lasted nearly a year, and taught Modeste the sense of 
satiety through thought. She held her life too often 
in her hand, she said to herself philosophically and 
with too real a bitterness, too seriously, and too often, 
** Well, what is it, after all?" not to have plunged to 
her waist in the deep disgust which all men of genius 
feel when they try to complete by intense ^il the work 
to which they have devoted themselves. Her youth and 
her rich nature alone kept Modeste at this period «f her 
life from seeking to enter a cloister. But this sense of 
satiety cast her, saturated as she still was with Catholic 
spirituality, into the love of Good, the infinite of heaven. 
She conceived of charity, service of others, as the true 
occupation of life; but she cowered in the gloomy 
dreariness of finding in it no food for the fancy that 
lay crouching in her heart like an insect at the bottom 
of a calyx. Meanwhile she sa t tran quilly sewing gar* 




60 Modeste Mignon. 

ments for the children of the poor, and listening ab- 
stractedly to the graniblings of Monsieur Latournelle 
when Dumay held the thirteenth card or drew out his 
last trump. 

Her religious faith drove Modeste for a time into a 
singular track of thought. She imagined that if she 
became sinless (speaking ecclesiastically) she would 
attain to such a condition of sanctity that God would 
hear her and accomplish her desires. "Faith," she 
thought, " can remove mountains ; Christ has said so. 
The Saviour led his apostle upon the waters of the lake 
Tiberias ; and I, all I ask of God is a husband jojoye 
me; that is easiejUthanjSf alkinj;jaK)nr'-the" sea." She 
fasted througETthe next Lent, and did not commit a 
single sin ; then she said to herself that on a certain 
day coming out of church she should meet a handsome 
young man who was worthy of her, whom her mother 
would accept, and who would fall madly in love with 
her. When the day came on which she had, as it 
were, summoned God to send her an angel, she was 
persistently followed by a rather disgusting beggar; 
moreover, it rained heavily, and not a single young man 
was in the streets. On another occasion she went to 
walk on the jetty to see the EQglish travellers land ; 
but each Englishman had an Englishwoman, nearly as 
handsome as Modeste herself, who saw no one at all re- 
sembling a wandering Childe Harold. Tears overcame 
her, as she sat down like Marius on the ruins of her 
imagination. But on the day when she subpoenaed God 
for the third time she firmly believed that the Elect 
of her dreams was within the church, hiding, perhaps 
out of delicac}', behind one of the pillars, round all of 



Modeste Mignon. 61 

which she dragged Madame Latournelle on a tour of 
inspection. After this failure, she deposed the Deity 
fi'om omnipotence. Many were her conversations with 
the imaginary lover, for whom she invented questions 
and answers, bestowing upon him a great deal of wit 
and intelligence. 

The high ambitions of her heart hidden within these 
romances were the real explanation of the prudent 
conduct which the good people who watched over 
Modeste so much admired; they might have brought 
her any number of young Althors or Vilquins, and she 
would never have stooped to such clowns. She wanted, 
purely and simply, a maa.Qfgenius, — talent she cared 
little for ; just as a lawyer is oTno account to a girl who 
aims for an ambassador. Her only desire for wealth 
was to cast it at the feet of her idol. Indeed, the 
golden background of these visions was ffOr less rich 
than the treasury of her own heart, filled with womanly 
delicacy; for its dominant desire was to make some 
Tasso, some Milton, a Jean- Jacques Rousseau, a Murat, 
a Christopher Columbus happj\ 

Commonplace miseries did not seriously touch 'this 
youthful soul, who longed to extinguish the fires of the 
martyrs ignored and rejected in their own day. Some- 
times she imagined balms of Gilead, soothing melo- 
dies which might have allayed the savage misanthropy 
of Rousseau. Or she fancied herself the wife of Lord 
Byron ; guessing intuitively his contempt for the real, she 
made herself as fantastic as the poetry of Manfred, and 
provided for his scepticism by making him a Catholic. 
Modeste attributed MoHere's melancholy to the women 
of the seventeenth century. *' Why is there not some 



62 Modeste Mtgnon. 

one woman," she asked herself^ ^^ loAdng, beaatiful, and 
rich, ready to stand beside each man of genius and be 
his slave, like Lara, the mysterious page ? " She bad, 
as the reader perceives, fully understood U pianto, 
which the English poet chanted by the mouth of his 
Gulnare. Modeste greatly admired the behavior of the 
young Englishwoman who offered herself to Crebillon, 
the son, who married her. The story of Sterne and 
Eliza Draper was her life and her happiness for several 
months. She made herself ideally the heroine of a like 
romance, and many a time she rehearsed in imagina- 
tion the sublime r61e of Eliza. The sensibility sa 
charmingly expressed in that delightful correspondence 
filled her ej'es with tears which, it is said, were lacking 
in those of the wittiest of English writers. 

Modeste existed for some time on a comprehensioDy 
not only of the works, but of the characters of her favorite 
authors, — Goldsmith, the author of Obermann, Charles 
Nodier, Maturin. The poorest and the most suffering 
among' Hhem were her deities ; she guessed their trials, 
initiated herself into a destitution where the thoughts 
of genius brooded, and poured upon it the treasures of 
her heart; she fancied herself the giver of material 
comfort to tiiese great men^ martyrs to their own fac- 
ulty. This noble compassion, this intuition of the 
struggles of toilers, this worship of genius, are among 
the choicest perceptions that flutter through the souls 
of women. They are, in the first place, a secret be- 
tween the woman and God, for thej' are hidden; in 
them there is nothing striking, nothing that gratifies 
the vanity, — that powerful auxiliary to all action 
among the French. 



Mbdeste Mzgnon. 63 

Oat of this third period of the development of her 
ideas, there came to Modeste a passionate desire to 
penetrate to the heart of one of these abnormal beings ; 
to understand the working of the thoughts and the hid- 
den griefs of genius, — to know not only what it wanted 
but what it was. At the period when this story begins, 
these vagaries of fancy, these excursions of her soul 
into the void, these feelers put forth into the darkness 
of the fhture, the impatience of an ungiven love to 
find its goal, the nobility of all her tlioughts of life, 
the decision of her mind to suflTer in a sphere of higher 
things rather than flounder in the marshes of provincial 
life like her njother, the pledge she had made to herself 
never to |Ktl in conduct, but to respect her father's 
hearth and bring it happiness, — all this world of feel- 
ing and sentiment had lately come to a climax and 
taken shape. fModeste wished to be the friend and 
companion ofnT^et, an artist, a man in some way 
superior to the crowd of men. But she intended to 
choose him, — not to give him her heart, her liffe, her 
infinite tenderness freed from the trammels of passion^ 
until she had carefully and deeply studied him.^ 

She began this pretty romance by simply enjojing it. 
Profound tranquillity settled down upon her soul. Her 
cheeks took on a soft color ; and she became the beauti- 
ful and noble image of Germany, such as we have lately 
seen her, the glory of the Chalet, the pride of Madame i 
Latournelle and the Dumays. Mo deste w as living a I 
double existence. She performed with humble, loving f 
care all the minute duties of the homely life at the j 
Chalet, using them as a I'ein to guide the poetry of ! 
her ideal life, like the Carthusian monks who labor \ 



64 Modeste Mignfm. 

methodically on material things to leave their souls the 
freer to develop in prayer. All great minds have bound 
themselves to some form of mechanical toil to obtain 
greater mastery of thought. Spinosa ground glasses for 
spectacles; Bayle counted the tiles on the roof; Mon- 
tesquieu gardened. The body being thus subdued, the 
soul could spread its wings in all security. 

Madame Mignon, readingjigr^ daught er's soul, jg gs 
therefore H^hit. Mo^gste loved ; ^fie loved with that 
rai*e pTalonic love, so littleHfid^rstood, the first illusion 
of a young girl, the most delicate of all sentiments, a 
very dainty of the heart. She drank deep draughts 
from the chalice of the unknown, the vague, the vision- 
ary. She admired the blue plumage of the bird that 
sings afkr in the paradise of young girls, which no hand 
can touch, no gun can cover, as it flits across the sight ; 
she loved those magic colors, like sparkling jewels daz- 
zling to the eye, which youth can see, and never sees 
again when Reality, the hideous hag, appears with wit- 
nesses accompanied by the mayor. To live the very 
poetry of love and not to see the lover — ah, what 
sweet intoxication ! what visionary rapture ! a chimera 
with flowing mane and outspread wings I 

The following is the puerile and even silly event which 
decided the futqi'e life of this young girl. 

Modeste happened to see in a bookseller's window a 
lithographic portrait of one of her favorites, Qb^^, 
We all know what lies such pictures tell, — being as they 
are the result of a shameless speculation, which seizes 
upon the personality of celebrated individuals as if their 
faces were public property. 

In this instance Canalis, sketched in a Byronic pose, 



Modeste Mignon. 65 

was offering to public admiration his dark locks floating 
in the breeze, a bare throat, and the unfathomable brow 
which every bai'd ought to possess. Victor Hugo's 
forehead will make more persons shave their heads than 
the number of incipient marshals ever killed by the 
glory of Napoleon. This portrait of Canalis (poetic 
through mercantile necessity) caught Modeste's eye. 
The day on which it caught her eye one of Arthez's 
best books happened to be published. We are com-f 
pelled to admit, though it may be to Modeste's injury, 
that she hesitated long between the illustrious poet and 
tbejUustrions prn,sp-writer«- Which of these celebrated 
men was free? — that was the question. 

Modeste began by securing the co-operation of Frari- 
,(2oise Cochet, a maid taken from Havre and brought 
bacE^agafn by poor Bettina, whom Madame Mignon 
and Madame Dnmay now employed by the day, and 
who lived in Havre. Modeste took her to her own 
room and assured her that she would never cause her 
parents any grief, never pass the bounds of a young 
girl's propriety, and that as to FrauQOise herself she 
should be well provided for after the return of Mon- 
sieur Mignon, on condition that she would do a certain 
service and keep it an inviolable secret. What was it? 
Why, a nothing — perfectly innocent. All that Mo- \ 
deste wanted of her accomplice was to put certain letters 
into the post at Havre and to bring some back which 
would be directed to herself, Fran9oise Cochet. The 
treaty concluded, Modeste wrote a polite note to Dau- 
riat, publisher of the poems of Canalis, asking, in the 
interest of that great poet, for some particulars about 
him^ among others if he were married. She requested 



66 Modeste Mignon. 

the publisher to address his answer to Mademoiselle 
Frangoise, poste restante^ Havre. 

Dauriat, incapable of taking the epistle seriously, 
wrote a reply in presence of four or five journalists who 
happened to be in his oflSce at the time, each of whom 
added his particular stroke of wit to the production. 

Mademoiselle, — Gknalis (Baron of), Constant Cyr 
Melchior, member of the French Academy, bom in 1800, 
at Canalis (Ck>rr^ze), five feet four inches in height, of good 
standing, vaccinated, spotless birth, has given a substitute 
to the conscription, enjoys perfect health, owns a small patri- 
monial estate in the Corr^ze, and wishes to marry, bat the 
lady must be rich. 

He beareth per pale, gules an axe or, sable three escallops 
argent, surmounted by a baron's coronet ; supporters, two 
larches, vert. Motto : Or et fer (no allusion to Ophir or 
auriferous). 

The original Canalis, who went to the Holy Land with the 
First Crusade, is cited in the chronicles of Auvergne as being 
armed with an axe on account of the family indigence, which 
to this day weighs heavily on the race. This noble baron, 
famous for discomfiting a vast number of infidels, died, with- 
out or or fer, as naked as a worm, near Jerusalem, on the 
plains of Ascalon', ambulances not being then invented. 

The ch&teau of Canalis (the domain yields a few chest- 
nuts) consists of two dismantled towers, united by a piece of 
wall covered by a fine ivy, and is taxed at twenty-two francs. 

The undersigned (publisher) calls attention to the fact 
that he pays ten thousand francs for every volume of poetry 
written by Monsieur de Canalis, who does not give his shells, 
or his nuts either, for nothing. 

The chanticleer of the Corrfeze lives in the rue de Paradis- 
Poissoni^re, number 29, which is a highly suitable location 
for a poet of the angelic school. Letters must be post-paid. 



Modeste Mignon. 67 

Noble dames of the fauboarg Saint-Germain are said to 
take the path to Paradise and protect its god. The king, 
Charles X., thinks so highly of this great poet as to believe 
him capable of governing the country ; he has lately made 
him officer of the Legion of honor, and (what pays him bet- 
ter) president of the court of Claims at the foreign office. 
These functions do not hinder this great genius from drawing 
an annuity out of the fund for the encourieigement of the arts 
and belles lettres. 

The last edition of the works of Canalis, printed on 
vellum, royal 8vo, from the press of Didot, with illustrations 
by Bixion, Joseph Bridau, Schinner, Sommervieux, etc., is 
in five volumes, price, nine francs post-paid." 

This letter fell like a cobble-stone on a tulip. A 
poet, secretary of claims, getting a stipend in a pub- 
lic oflSce, drawing an annuity, seeking a decoration, 
adored by the women of the faubourg Saint-Germain — 
was that the muddy minstrel lingering along the quays, 
sad, dreamy, worn with toil, and re-entering his garret 
fraught with poetry? However, Modeste perceived the 
irony of the envious bookseller, who dared to say, '* I ,. 
invented Canalis ; I made Nathan ! " Besides, she re- 
read her hero's poems, — verses extremely seductive, 
insincere, and hypocritical, which require a word of 
analysis, were it only to explain her infatuation. 

Canalis may be distinguished from Lamartine, chief \ 
of the angelic school, by a wheedling tone like that of 
a sick-nurse, a treacherous sweetness, and a delightful 
correctness of diction. If the chief with his strident 
cry is an eagle, Canalis, rose and white, is a flamingo. 
In him women find the friend they seek, their interpre- 
ter, a being who understands them, who explains them 
to themselves, and a safe confidant. The wide margins 



68 Modeite Mignon, 

given bj Didot to the last edition were crowded with 
Modeste's pencilled sentiments, expressing her sym- 
pathy with this tender and dreamy spirit. Caualis does 
not possess the gift of life ; he cannot breathe exist- 
ence into his creations; but he knows how to calm 
vagne sufferings like those which assailed Modeste. 
He speaks to young girls in their own language ; he 
can allay the anguish of a bleieding wound and lull the 
moans, even the sobs of woe. His gift lies not in stirring 
words, nor in the remedy of strong emotions, he con- 
tents himself with saying in harmonious tones which 
compel belief, '^ I suflfer with you ; I understand you ; 
come with me ; let us weep together beside the brook, 
beneath the willows/' And they follow him! They 
listen to his empty and sonorous poetry like infants 
to a nurse's lullab3\ Canalis, like Nodier, enchants the 
reader by an artlessness which is genuine in the prose 
writer and artificial in the poet, bj^ his tact, his smile, 
the shedding of his rose-leaves, in short by his infantile 
philosophy. He imitates so well the language of our 
early youth that he leads us back to the prairie-land of 
our illusions. We can be pitiless to the eagles, re- 
quiring from them the quality of the diamond, incor- 
ruptible perfection; but as for Canalis, we take him 
for what he is and let the rest go. He seems a good 
fellow ; the affectations of the angelic school have an- 
swered his purpose and succeeded, just as a woman 
succeeds when she plays the ingenue cleverly, and 
simulates surprise, youth, innocence betrayed, in short, 
the wounded angel. 

Modeste, recovering her first impressions, renewed her 
confidence in that soul, in that countenance as ravish* 



To ..lo 
sieur, 1 have vti^l 
you guess why, — ^ to cv 
genius. Yes, I feel the ne^jvi 
admiration of a poor country giii, 
corner, whose only happiness is to reaa ^ 
I have read Ren^, and I come to j^ou. Saduc 
to revery. How many other women are sending j 
the homage of their secret thoughts? What chance 
have I for notice among so many? This paper, filled 
with my soul, — can it be more to you than the per- 
fumed letters which already beset you. I come to you 
with less grace than others, for I wish to remain un- 
known and yet to receive your entire confidence — as 
though you had long known me. 

Answer my letter and be. friendly with me. I can- 
not promise to make myself known to you, though I 
do not positively say I will not some day do so. 

What shall I add? Read between the lines of this 
letter, monsieur, the great effort which I am making : 
permit me to oflTer you my hand, — that of a friend, 
ah ! a true friend, 

Your servant, 0. d'Este M. 

P. S. — If you do me the favor to answer this let- 
ter address your reply, if you please, to Mademoiselle 
F. Cochetj paste restantey Havre. 



^C SCHOOL* 

^antic or otherwise, can imagine 
^ which Modeste lived for the next few 
.^ air was full of tongaes of fire. The trees 
^ nke a plumage. She wa9 not conscious of a body ; 
she hovered in space, the earth melted away under her 
feet. Full of admiration for the post-office, she fol- 
lowed her little sheet of paper on its way ; she was 
happy, as we all are happy at twenty years of age, in 
the first exercise of our will. She was possessed, as in 
the middle ages. She made pictures in her mind of the 
poet's abode, of his study ; she saw him unsealing her 
letter ; and then followed myriads of suppositions. 

After sketching the poetry we cannot do less than 

give the profile of the poet. Canalis is a short, spare 

man, with an air of good-breeding, a dark-complexioned, 

moon-shaped face, and a rather mean head like that 

rrof a man who has more vanity than pride. He loves 

/luxury, rank, and splendor. Money is o f niore impor- 
tance to^him than to mostLinen. Proud of his birth, 
even more than of his talent, he destroys the value of 
his ancestors by making too much of them in the pres- 
ent day, — after all, the Canalis are not Navarreins, 
nor Cadignans, nor Grandlieus. Nature, however, 
helps him out in his pretensions. He has those eyes 



Modeste Mignon. 71 

of Eastern effulgence which we demand in a poet, a 
delicate charm of manner, and a vibrant voice; yet 
a taint of natural charlatanism destroys the effect of v 
nearly all these advantages ; he is a born comedian. ^ 
If he puts forward his well-shaped foot, it is because 
the attitude has become a habit ; if he uses exclama- 
tory terms they are a part of himself; if he poses with 
high dramatic action he has made that deportment his 
second nature. Such defects as these are not incom- 
patible with a general benevolence and a certain quality 
of errant and purely ideal chivalry, which distinguishes 
the paladin from the knight. Canalis has not devotion 
enough for a Don Quixote, but he has too much eleva- 
tion of thought not to put himself on the nobler side of 
questions and things. His poetry, which takes the 
town by storm on all profitable occasions, really in- 
jures the man as a poet ; for he is not without mind, 
but his talent prevents him from developing it ; he is 
overweighted by his reputation, and is always aiming to 
make himself appear greater than he has the credit of 
being. Thus, as often happens, the man is entirely 
out of keeping with the products of his thought. The 
author of these naive, caressing, tender little lyrics, 
these calm idyls pure and cold as the surface of a lake, 
these verses so essentially feminine, is an ambitious 
little creature in a tightly buttoned frock-coat, with the 
air of a diplomat seeking political influence, smelling of 
the musk of aristocracj^ full of pretension, thirsting for 
money, already spoiled by success in two directions, 
and wearing the double wreath of myrtle and of laurel. 
A government situation worth eight thousand francs, 
three thousand francs' annuity from the literary fund. 



72 Modeste Mignan. 

two thoasand fW)m the Academy, three thousand more 
from the paternal estate (less the taxes and the cost of 
keeping it in order), — a total fixed income of fifteen 
thousand francs, pins the ten thoasand brought in, one 
3'ear with another, by his poetry; in aU twenty-five 
thousand francs, — this for Modeste's hero was so pre- 
carious and insufiScient an income that he usually spent 
from five to six thousand francs more every year ; but 
the king's privy purse and the secret funds of the 
foreign ofiSce had hitherto supplied the deficit. He 
wrote a hymn for the king's coronation which earned 
him a whole silver service, — having refused a sum of 
money on the ground that a Canalis owed his duty to 
the sovereign. 

But about this time Canalis had, as the journalists 
say, exhausted his budget. He felt himself unable to 
invent any new form of poetry ; his lyre did not have 
seven strings, it had one ; and having played on that 
one string so long, the public allowed him no other al- 
ternative than to hang himself with it, or to hold his 
tongue. De Marsay, who did not like Canalis, made a 
remark whose poisoned shaft touched the poet to the 
quick of his vanity. " Canalis," he said, " always re- 
minds me of that brave man whom Frederic the Great 
called up and commended after a battle because his 
trumpet had never ceased tooting its one little tune." 
Canalises ambition was to enter political life, and he 
made capital of a journey he bad taken to Madrid as 
secretary to the embassy of tiie Due de Chaulieu, though 
it was really made, according to Parisian gossip, in the 
capacity of '* attach^ to the duchess." How many 
times a sarcasm or a single speech has decided the 



Modeste MignoH. 7S 

whole coarse of a man's life. Colla, the late president 
of the Cisalpine republic, and the best lawyer in Pied- 
mont, was told by a friend when he was forty years of 
VLgQ that he knew nothing of botany. He was piqued, 
became a second Jussieu, cultivated flowers, and com- 
piled and published " The Flora of Piedmont," in Latin, 
a labor of ten years. '* I '11 master De Marsay some of 
these days!" thought the crushed poet; "after all, 
Canning and Chateaubriand are both in politics." 

Canalis would gladly have brought forth some great 
political poem, but he was afraid of the French press, 
whose criticisms are savage upon any writer who takes 
four alexandrines to express one idea. Of all the poets 
of our day only three, Hugo, Thi^ophile Gautier, and 
De Vigny, have been able to win the double glory of 
poet and prose- writer, like Racine and Voltaire, Mo* 
liere, and Babelais, -^ a rare distinction in the literature 
of France, which ought to give a man a right to the 
crowning title of poet. 

So then, the bard of the faubourg Saint-Germain 
was doing a wise thing in trying to house his little 
chariot under the protecting roof of the present gov- 
ernment When he became president of the court of 
Claims at the foreign office, he stood in need of a sec- 
retary, — a friend who could take his place in various 
ways ; cook up his interests with publishers, see to his 
glory in the newspapers, help him if need be in politics, 
— in short, a cat's-paw and satellite. In Paris many 
men of celebrity in art, science, and literature have one 
or more trainbearers, captains of the guard, chamber- 
lains as it were, who live in the sunshine of their pres- 
ence, — aides-de-camp intrusted with delicate missions, 



74 Modeite Mignon. 

allowing themselves to be compromised if necessary ; 
workers roand the pedestal of the idol ; not exactly his 
servants, nor 3'et his equals ; bold in his defence, first 
in the breach, coveiing all retreats, busy with his busi- 
ness, and devoted to him just so long as their illusions 
last, or until the moment when they have got all they 
wanted. Some of these satellites perceive the ingrati- 
tude of their great man ; others feel that they are simply 
made tools of; many weary of the life ; very few remain 
contented with that sweet equality of feeling and sen-, 
timent which is the only reward that should be looked 
for in an intimacy with a superior man, — a reward that 
contented Ali when Mohammed raised him to himself. 

Many of these men, misled by vanity, think them- 
selves quite as capable as their patron. Pure devotion, 
such as Modeste conceived it, without money and with- 
out price, and more especially without hope, is rare. 
Nevertheless there are Mennevals to be found, more 
perhaps in Paris than elsewhere, men who value a life 
in the background with its peaceful toil : these are the 
wandering Benedictines of our social world, which offers 
them no other monastery. These brave, meek hearts 
live, by their actions and in their hidden lives, the 
poetry that poets utter. They are poets themselves in 
soul, in tenderness, in their lonely vigils and medita- 
tions, — as truly poets as others of the name on paper, 
who fatten in the fields of literature at so much a verse ; 
like Lord Byron, like all who live, alas, by ink, the 
Hippocrene water of to-day, for want of a better. 

Attracted bj'^ the fame of Canalis, also by the pros- 
pect of political interest, and advised thereto by Ma- 
dame d'£spard, who acted in the matter for the Duchesse 



Modeste Mignon. 75 

de Chaulieu, a yonng lawyer of the court of Claims be- 
came secretary and confidential friend of the poet, who 
welcomed and petted him very much as a broker car- 
esses his first dabbler in the funds. The beginning of 
this companionship bore a very fair resemblance to 
friendship. The young man had already held the same 
relation to a minister, who went out of ofidce in 1827, 
taking care before he did so to appoint his young secre- 
tary to a place in the foreign ofilce. Ernest de la Briere, 
then about twenty-seven years of i^e, was decorated 
with the Legion of honor but was without other means 
than his salaty ; he was accustomed to the management 
of business and had learned a good deal of life dunng 
his four years in a minister's cabinet. Kindly, amiable, 
and over-modest, with a heart full of pure and sound 
feelings, he was averse to putting himself in the fore- 
ground. He loved his country, and wished to serve 
her, but notoriety abashed him. To him the place of 
secretary to a Napoleon was far more desirable than 
that of the minister himself. As soon as he became the 
friend and secretary of Canalis he did a great amount 
of labor for him, but by the end of eighteen months he 
had learned to understand the barrenness of a nature 
that was poetic through literary expression only. The 
truth of the old proverb, " The cowl does n't make the 
monk," is eminently shown in literature. It is extremely 
; rare to find among literary men a nature and a talent that 
are in perfect accord. The faculties are not the man 
himself. This disconnection, whose phenomena are 
amazing, proceeds from an unexplored, possibly an un- 
explorable mystery. The brain and its products of all 
kinds (for in art the hand of man is a continuation of 



76 Modeste Mignon. 

his brain) are a world apart, which flourishes beneath the 
cranium in absolute independence of sentiments^ feel- 
ings, and all that is called virtue, the virtue of citizens, 
fathers, and private life. This, however true, is not 
absolutely so ; nothing is absolutely true of man. It is 
certain that a debauched man will dissipate his talent, 
that a drunkard will waste it in libations ; while, on the 
other hand, no man can give himself talent by whole- 
some living: nevertheless it is all but proved that 
Virgil, the painter of love, never loved a Dido, and that 
Rousseau, the model. citizen, had enough pride to have 
furnished forth an aristocracy. On the other hand 
, Raphael and Michael Angelo d^ present the glohoua. 
' conjunction of genius with the lines of character. I Tal- 
^ ent in men is therefore, in all moral points, veiy much 
what beauty is in women, — simply a promise. Let us, 
therefore, doubly admire the man in whom both heart 
and character equal the perfection of his genius.^ 

When Ernest discovered within his poet an ambftious 
egoist, the worst species of egoist (for there are some 
amiable forms of the vice), he felt a delicacy in leaving 
him. Honest natures cannot easily break the ties that 
bind them, especially if they have tied them voluntarily. 
The secretary was therefore still living if domestic rela- 
tions with the poet when Modeste's letter arrived, — in 
such relations, be it said, as involved a perpetual sacri- 
fice of bis feelings. La Briere admitted the frankness 
with which Canalis had laid himself bare before him. 
Moreover, the defects of the man, who will always be 
considered a great poet during his lifetime and flattered 
as Marmontel was flattered, were only the wrong side of 
his brilliant qualities. Without his vanity and his 



Modeste Mignon. 77 

magniloqaence it is possible that he might never have 
acquired the sonorous elocution which is so useful and 
even necessary an instrument in political life. His 
cold-bloodedness touched at certain points on rectitude 
and loyalty ; his ostentation had a lining of generosity. ' 
Results, we must remember, ai*e to the profit of society ; 
motives concern God. 

But after the arrival of Modeste's letter Ernest de- 
ceived himself no longer as to Canalis. The pair had 
just finished breakfast and were talking together in 
the poet's study, which was on the ground-floor of a 
house standing back in a courtj^ard, and looked into a 
garden. 

" There ! " exclaimed Canalis, " I was telling Ma- 
dame de Chaulieu the other day that I ought to bring out 
another poem ^ I knew admiration was running short, 
for I have had no anonymous letters for a long time." 

" Is it from an unknown woman? " 

** Unknown ? yes ! — a D'Este, in Havre ; evidently a 
feigned name." 

Canalis passed the letter to La Briere. The little 
poem, with all its hidden enthusiasms, in short, poor 
Modeste's heart, was disdainfully handed over, with the 
gesture of a sgpiled dandy. 

" It is a fine thing," said the lawyer, *' to have the 
power to attract such feelings ; to force a poor woman 
to step out of the habits which nature, education, and 
the woiid dictate to her, to break through conventions. 
What privileges genius wins ! A letter such as this, 
written by a young girl — a genuine young girl — with- 
out hidden meanings, with real enthusiasm — " 

*' Well, what? " said Canalis. 



78 Modeste Mignon. 

*' Why, a man might saffer as much as Tasso and 
yet feel recompensed," cried La Briere. 

" So he might, my dear fellow, by a first letter of that 
kind, and even a second ; but how about the thirtieth? 
And suppose you find out that these young enthusiasts 
are little jades ? Or imagine a poet rushing along the 
brilliant path in search of her, and finding at the end 
of it an old Englishwoman sitting on a mile-stone and 
offering you her hand ! Or suppose this post-ofllce angel 
should really be a rather ugly girl in quest of a husband? 
Ah, my boy ! the effervescence then goes down." 

*' I begin to perceive/' said La Briere, smiling, *' that 
there is something poisonous in glory, as there is in 
certain dazzling flowers/' 

" And then," resumed Canalis, " all these women, 
even when they are simple-minded, have ideals, and 
you can't satisfy them. They never say to themselves 
that a poet is a vain man, as I am accused of being ; 
they can't conceive what it is for an author to be at the 
mercy of a feverish excitement, which makes him dis- 
agreeable and capricious ; they want him always grand, 
noble ; it never occurs to them that genius is a disease, 
or that Nathan lives with Florine ; that D'Arthez is too 
fat, and Joseph Bridau is too thin ; that Beranger limps, 
and that their own particular deity may have the 
snuffles ! A Lucien de Rubempre, poet and cupid, is 
a phoenix. And why should I go in search of compli- 
ments only to pull the string of a shower-bath of horrid 
ilooks from some disillusioned female ?" 

" Then the true poet," said La Briere, " ought to 
remain hidden, like God, in the centre of his worlds, 
and be only seen in his own creations." 



Modeste Mignan. 79 

" Glory would cost too dear in that case," answered 
Canalis. ^' There is some good in life. As for that let- 
ter/' he added, taking a cup of tea, ^^ I assure you that 
when a noble and beautiful woman loves a poet she 
does aot hide in the corner boxes, like4 duchess in love 
with an actor ; she feels that her beauty, her fortune, 
her name are protection enough, and she dares to say 
openly, like an epic poem : ' I am the nymph Calypso, 
enamoured of Telemachus.' Mystery and feigned names 
are the resources of little minds. For my part I no 
longer answer masks — " 

" I should love a woman who came to seek me," 
cried La Briere. "To all you say I reply, my dear 
Canalis, that it cannot be an ordinar}* girl who aspires 
to a distinguished man ; such a girl has too little trust, 
too much vanity; she is too faint-hearted. Only a 
star, a — " 

" — princess ! " cried Canalis, bursting into a shout of 
laughter; "only a princess can descend to him. My 
dear fellow, that does n't happen once in a hundred 
years. Such a love is like that flower that blossoms 
every century. Princesses, let me tell you, if they are 
young, rich, and beautiful, have something else to think 
of; they are surrounded like rare plants by a hedge of 
fools, well-bred idiots as hollow as elder-bushes I My 
dream, alas I the crystal of my dream, garlanded from 
hence to the Correze with roses — ah ! I cannot speak of 
it — it is in fragments at my feet, and has long been 
so. No, no, all anonj^mous letters are begging let- 
ters ; and what sort of begging ? Write yourself to 
that young woman, if you suppose her young and 
pretty, and you '11 find out. There is nothing like ex- 



80 Modente Mignon. 

perience. As for me, I can't reasonably be expected to 
love every woman ; Apollo, at an}- rate he of Belve- 
dere, is a delicate consumptive who must take care of 
his health." 

*'*' But when a woman writes to yon in this way her 
excnse mast certainly be in>her consciousness that she 
is able to eclipse in tenderness and beauty every other 
woman,'' said Ernest, ^^and I should think you might 
feel some curiosity — " 

'' Ah," said Canalls, '^ permit me, my juvenile friend, 
to abide by the beautiful duchess who is all my joy." 

*' You are right, you are right ! " cried Ernest. How- 
ever, the young secretary read and re-read Modeste's 
letter, striving to guess the mind of its hidden writer. 

" There is not the least fine-writing here," he said, 
*^ she does not even talk of your genius ; she speaks to 
3'our heart. In your place I should feel tempted by this 
fragrance of modesty, — this proposed agreement — ." 

" Then, sign it ! " cried Canalis, laughing ; " answer 
the letter and go to the end of the adventure yourself. 
You shall tell me the result three months hence — if 
the affair lasts so long." 

Four days later Modeste received the following letter, 
written on extremely fine paper, protected by two en- 
velopes, and sealed with the arms of Canalis. 

Mademoiselle, — The admiration for fine works (al- 
lowing that my books are such) implies something so 
lofty and sincere as to protect you from all light jest- 
ing, and to justify before tlie sternest judge the step 
you have taken in writing to me. 

But first I must thank you for the pleasure which 
such proofs of sympathy aflford, even though we mfiy 



Modeate Mignon. 81 

not merit them, ^— for the maker of verses and the true 
poet are equally certain of the intrinsic worth of their 
writings, — so readily does self-esteem lend itself to 
praise. The best proof of friendship that I can give to 
an unknown lady in exchange for a faith which allays 
the sting of criticism, is to share with her the harvest 
of my own experience, even at the risk of dispelling her 
most vivid illusions. 

Mademoiselle, the noblest adornment of a 3*oung girl 
is the flower of a pure and saintly and irreproachable 
life. Are you alone in the world? If you are, there is 
no need to say more. But if you have a family, a ' 
father or a mother, think of all the sorrow that might 
come to them from such a letter as youi*s addressed to 
a poet of whom you know nothing pcrsonallj*. All 
writers are not angels ; they have many defects. Some 
are frivolous, heedless, foppish, ambitious, dissipated ; 
and, believe me, no matter how imposing innocence 
may be, how chivalrous a poet is, you will meet with 
many a degenerate troubadour in Paris ready to culti- 
vate your affection only to betray it By such a man 
your letter would be interpreted otherwise than it is by 
me. He would see a thought that is not in it, which 
you, in your innocence, have not suspected. There 
are as many natures as there are writers. I am deeply 
flattered that you have judged me capable of under- 
standing you ; but had you, perchance, fallen upon a 
hypocrite, a scoffer, one whose books may be melan- 
choly but whose life is a perpetual carnival, you would 
have found as the result of 3'our generous imprudence 
an evil-minded man, the frequenter of green-rooms, 
perhaps the hero of some gay resort In the bower of 

(i 



82 Modeste Mignon. 

clematis where yon dream of poets, can yon smell the 
odor of the cigar which drives all poetry from the 
manuscript ? 

But let us look still further. How could the dreamy, 
solitary life you lead, doubtless by the sea-shore, in- 
' terest a poet, whose mission it is to imagine all, and 
to paint all? What reality can equal imagination? 
The young girls of the poets are so ideal that no living 
daughter of Eve can compete with them. And now 
tell me, what will you gain, — you, a young girl, brought 
up to be the virtuous mother of a family, — if you learn 
to comprehend the terrible agitations of a poet's life in 
this dreadful capital, which may be defined by one sen- 
tence, — the hell in which men love. 

fif the desire to brighten the monotonous existence 
of a young girl thirsting for a knowledge of life has led 
you to take your pen in hand and write to me, has not 
the step itself the appearance of degradation ? What 
meaning am I to give to your letter ? Are you one of 
a rejected caste, and do you seek a friend far away 
from you ? Or, are you afflicted with personal ugliness, 
yet feeling within you a noble soul which can give and 
receive a confidence? Alas, alas, the conclusion to be 
drawn is grievous. You have said too much, or too 
little ; you have gone too far, or not far enough. Either 
let us drop this correspondence, or, if you continue 
it, tell me more than in the leitter you have now 
written me. 

But, mademoiselle, if you are young, if you are beau- 
tiful, if you have a home, a family, if in your heart you 
have the precious ointment, the spikenard, to pour out, 
as did Magdalene on the feet of Jesus, let yourself be 



Modeste Mignon. 83 

won by a man worthy of you ; become what every pnre \ 
young girl should be, — a good woman, the vutuous 
mother of a family. A poet is the saddest conquest 
that a girl can make; he is full of vanity, full of an- 
gles that will sharply wound a woman's proper pride, 
and kill a tenderness which has no experience of life. 
The wife of a poet should love him long before she 
marries him ; she must train herself to the charity of 
angels, to their forbearance, to all the virtues of moth- 
erhood. Such qualities, mademoiselle, are but germs 
in a young girl. 

Hear the whole truth, — do I not owe it to you in 
return for your intoxicating flattery ? If it is a glorious 
thing to marry a great renown, remember also that 3'ou 
must soon discover a superior man to be, in all that 
makes a man, like other men. He therefore poorly 
realizes the hopes that attach to him as a phoenix. He 
becomes like a woman whose beauty is overpraised, 
and of whom we say : " I thought her far more lovel}'.*' 
She has not warranted the portrait painted by the fairy 
to whom I owe your letter, — the fairy whose name is 
Imtigination. 

Believe me, the qualities of the mind live and thrive 
only in a sphere invisible, not in dailj' life ; the wife of 
a poet bears the burden ; she sees the jewels manufac- 
tured, but she never wears them. If the glory of the 
position fascinates you, hear me now when I tell you 
that its pleasures are soon at an end. You will suffer 
when you find so many asperities in a nature which, 
from a distance, you thought equable, and such cold- 
ness at the shining summit Moreover, as women never 
set their feet within the world of real difficulties^ they 



84 Modeite Mignon. 

cease to appreciate what they once admired as soon 
as they think they see the inner mechanism of it. 

I close with a last thought, in which there is no dis- 
guised entreaty ; it is the counsel of a friend. The ex- 
change of souls can take place only between persons 
who are resolved to hide nothing from each other. 
Would you show yourself for such as you are to an 
unknown man? I dare not follow out the oonsequenqes 
of that idea. 

Deign to accept, mademoiselle, the homage which 
we owe to all women, even those who are disguised 
and masked. 

So this was the letter she had worn between her flesh 
and her corset above her palpitating heart throughout 
one whole day ! For this she had postponed the read- 
ing until the midnight hour whenjhejiousehold slept, 



waiting for the solemn silence with the eager anxiety 
of an imagination on fire ! For this she had blessed 
the poet by anticipation, reading a thousand letters ere 
she opened one, — fancying all things, except this drop 
of cold water falling upon the vaporous forms of her 
illusion, and dissolving them as prussic acid dissolves 
life. What could she do but hide herself in her bed, blow 
out her candle, bury her face in the sheets and weep? 

All this happened during the fii*st days of July. But 
Modeste presently got up, walked across the room and 
opened the window. She wanted air. The fragrance 
of the flowers came to her with the peculiar freshness 
of the odors of the night. The sea, lighted by the 
moon, sparkled like a mirror. A nightingale was 
3inging in a tree. " Ah, there is the poet! " thought 



Modeste Mignan. 85 

Modeste, whose anger subsided at once. Bitter re- 
flections chased each other through her mind. She 
was cut to the quick ; she wished to re-read the letter, 
and lit a candle; she studied the sentences so care- 
fully studied when. written; and ended by hearing the 
wheezing voice of the outer world. 

^^ He is right, and I am wrong," she said to herself. 
" But who could ever believe that under the starry 
mantle of a poet I should find nothing but one of 
Moliere's old men?" 

When a woman or young girl is taken in the act, 
flagrante delicto^ she conceives a deadly hatred to the 
witness, the author, or the object of her fault. And so 
the true, the single-minded, the untamed and untam- 
able Modeste conceived within her soul an unquench- 
able desire to get the better of that righteous spirit, ta 
drive him into some fatal inconsistency, and so return 
him blow for blow. This girl, this child, as we may 
call her, so pure, whose head alone had been mis- 
guided, — partly by her reading, partly by her sister's 
sorrows, and more perhaps by the dangerous medita- 
tions of her solitary life, r— was suddenly caught by a 
ray of sunshine flickering across her face. She had 
been standing for three hours on the shores of the vast 
sea of Doubt. Nights like these ai*e never forgotten. 
Modeste walked straight to her little Chinese table, a 
gift from her father, and ivrote a letter dictated by the 
infernal spirit of vengeance which palpitates in the 
hearts of young girls. 



86 Modeste Mignon. 



CHAPTER Vm. 

BLADE TO BLADB. 

To Monsieur de Canalia : 

Monsieur, — You are certainly a great poet, and you 
are something more, — an honest man. After showing 
such loyal frankness to a young girl who was step- 
ping to the verge of an abyss, have you enough left 
to answer without hypocrisy or evasion the following 
question ? 

Would you have written the letter I now hold in an- 
swer to mine, — would your ideas, your language have 
been the same, — had some one whispered in your ear 
(what may prove true), Mademoiselle O. d'Este M. has 
six millions and does not intend to have a dunce for 
a master? 

Admit the supposition for a moment Be with me 
what you are with yourself; fea^ nothing. I am wiser 
than my twenty years ; nothing that is A*ank can hurt 
, you in my mind. When I have read your confidence, 
if you deign to make it, you shall receive from me an 
answer to your first letter. 

Having admired your talent, often so sublime, per- 
mit me to do homage to your delicacy and jour inte- 
grity, which force me to remain always, 

Your humble servant, 

O. d'Estb M. 



Modeste Mignan. 87 

When Ernest de La Bri^re had held this letter in his 
hands for some little time he went to walk along the 
boulevards, tossed in mind like a tiny vessel by a tem- 
pest when the wind is blowing from all the points of 
the compass. Most young men, specially true Paris- 
ians, would have settled the matter in a single phrase, 
"The girl is a- little hussy." But for a youth whose 
soul was noble and true, this attempt to put him, as it 
were, upon his oath, this appeal to truth, had the power 
to awaken the three judges hidden in the conscience of 
every man. Honor, Truth, and Justice, getting on their 
feet, cried out in their several ways energetically. 

"Ah, my dear Ernest," said Truth, "you never 
would have read that lesson to a rich heiress. No, my 
boy; you would have gone in hot haste to Havre to 
find out if the girl were handsome, and you would have 
been very unhappy indeed at her preference for genius ; 
and if you could have tripped up your Mend and sup- 
planted him in her affections, Mademoiselle d'Este 
would have been a divinity." 

"What?" cried Justice, "are you not always be- 
moaning yourselves, you penniless men of wit and ca- 
pacity, that rich girls marry beings whom you would n't 
take as your servants. You rail against the material- 
ism of the century which hastens to join wealth to 
wealth, and never marries some fine young man with 
brains and no money to a rich girl. What an outcry 
you make about it ; and yet here is a young woman who 
revolts against that very spirit of the age, and behold ! 
the poet replies with a blow at her heart ! " 

" Rich or poor, young or old, ugly or handsome, the 
girl is right; she has sense and judgment, she has 



I 



88 Mbdeste Mignon. 

tripped you over into the slough of self-interest and 
lets you know it," cried Honor. *' She deserves an 
answer, a sincere and loyal and frank answer, and, 
above all, the honest expression of your thought. Ex- 
amine yourself! sound your heart and purge it of its 
meannesses. What would Moliere's Alceste say ? " 

And I^ Briere, having started from the boulevard 
Poissoniere, walked so slowly, absorbed in these reflec- 
tions, that he was more than an hour in reaching the 
boulevard des Capucines. Then he followed the quays, 
which led him to the Cour des Comptes, situated in 
that time close to the Saint-Chapelle. Instead of be- 
ginning on the accounts as he shocild have done, he 
remained at the mercy of his perplexities. 

** One thing is evident," lie said to himself; " she 
has n't six millions ; but that's not the point -^ " 

Six days later, Modeste received the following letter : 

Mademoiselle, ^-< Yon are not a D'Este. The name 
is a feigned one to conceal your own. Do I owe the 
revelations which you solicit to a person who is untruth- 
fhl about herself? Question for question : Are you of 
an illustrious family? or a noble family? or a middle- 
class family? Undoubtedly ethics and morality can- 
not change; they are one: but obligations vary in 
the different states of life. Just as the sun lights up 
a scene diversely and produces differences which we 
admire, so morality conforms social duty to rank, to 
position. The peccadillo of a soldier is a crime in a 
r general, and vice-versa. Observances are not alike in 
\ all cases. They are not the same for the gleaner in the 
neld, for the girl who sews at fifteen sous a day, for the 



Modeste Mignon. 89 

daughter of a petty shopkeeper, for the yoang bour- 
geoises for the child of a rich merchant, for the heiress 
of a noble fami]}-, for a daughter of the house of 
Este. A king must not stoop to pick up a piece 
of gold, but a laborer ought to retrace his steps 
to find ten sous; though both are equally bound to 
obey the laws of economy. A daughter of Este, who 
is worth six millions, has the right to wear a broad- 
brimmed hat and plume, to flourish her whip, press the 
flanks of her barb, and ride like an amazon decked in 
gold lace, with a lackey behind her, into the presence 
of a poet and say : '^ I love poetry ; and I would fain 
expiate Leonora's cruelty to Tasso I " but a daughter 
of the people would cover herself with ridicule by imi- 
tating her. To what class do you belong? Answer 
sincerely, and I will answer the question you have put 
to me. 

As I have not the honor of knowing you personally, 
and yet am bound to you, in a measure, by the ties of 
poetic communion, I am unwilling to offer any common- 
place compliments. Perhaps you have already won a 
malicious victory by thus embarrassing a maker of 
books. 

The young inan was certainly not wanting in the sort 
of shrewdness which is permissible to a man of honor. 
By return courier he received an answer : — 

To MoNsiEUB DB Canalis, — You grow more and 
more sensible, my dear poet. My father is a count. 
The chief glory of our house was a cardinal, in the 
days when cardinals walked the earth by the side of 
kings. I am the last of our family, which ends in me ; 



90 Modeste Mignon. 

bat I have the necessary qnarteriDgs to make my entry 
into any court or chapter-house in Europe. We are 
quite the equals of the Canalis. You will be so kind 
as to excuse me from sending you our arms. 

Endeavor to answer me as truthfully as I have now 
answered you. I await your response to know if I can 
then sign myself as I do now, 

Your servant, O. d'Este M, 

'' The little mischief! how she abuses her privileges," 
cried La Briere ; " but is n't she frank I " 

No young man can be four years private secretary to a 
cabinet minister, and live in Paris and observe the carry- 
ing on of many intrigues, with perfect impunity ; in fact, 
the purest soul is more or less intoxicated by the heady 
atmosphere of the imperial city. Happy in the thought 
that he was not Canalis, our young secretary engaged 
a place in the mail-coach for Havre, after writing a let- 
ter in which he announced that the promised answer 
would be sent a few days later, — excusing the delay on 
the ground of the importance of the confession and 
the pressure of his duties at the ministry. 

He took care to get from the director-general of 
the post-office a note to the postmaster at Hayre, 
requesting secrecy and attention to his wishes. Ernest 
was thus enabled to see FranQoise Cochet when she 
came for the letters, and to follow her without exciting 
observation. Guided by her, he reached IngouvUle 
and saw Modeste Mignon at the window of the Chalet. 

"Well, Fran9oise?" he heard the young girl say: 
to which the maid responded, — 

*' Yes, mademoiselle, I have one." 



Modeste Mignon. 91 

Struck by the girl's great beauty, Ernest retraced his 
steps and asked a man on the street the name of the 
owner of the magnificent estate. 

'' That? " said the man, nodding to the villa. 

** Yes, my friend." 

** Oh, that belongs to Monsieur Vilquin, the richest 
shipping merchant in Havre, so rich he does n't know 
what he is worth." 

" There is no Cardinal Vilquin that I know of in his- 
tory," thought Ernest, as he walked back to Havre for 
the night mail to Paris. Naturally he questionied the 
postmaster about the Vilquin family, and learned that 
it possessed an enormous fortune. Monsieur Vilquin 
had a son and two daughters, one of whom was mar- 
ried to Monsieur Althor, junior. Prudence kept La 
Briere from seeming anxious about the Vilquins ; the 
postmaster was already looking at him slyly. 

^^ Is there there any one staying with them at the 
present moment," he asked, "besides the family?" 

" The d'H6rouville family is there just now. They 
do talk of a marriage between the young duke and the 
remaining Mademoiselle Vilquin." 

" Ha ! " thought Ernest ; " there was a celebrated 
Cardinal d'H^rouville under the Valois, and a terri- 
ble marshal whom they made a duke in the time of 
Henri IV." 

Ernest returned to Paris having seen enough of 
Modeste to dream of her, and to think that, whether 
she were rich or whether she were poor, if she had a 
noble soul he would like to make her Madame de 
La Briere; and so thinking, he resolved to continue 
the correspondence. 



92 Modeste Mignon. 

Ah ! yon poor women of France, try to remain hid- 
den if yon can ; try to weave the least little romance 
about your lives in the midst of a civilization which 
posts in the public streets the hours when the coaches 
arrive and depart ; which counts all letters and stamps 
them twice over, first with the hour when they are 
thrown into the boxes, and next with that of their 
delivery ; which numbers the houses, prints the tax of 
each tenant on a metal register at the doors (after 
verifying its particulars), and will soon possess one 
vast raster of every inch of its territory down to the 
smallest parcel of land, and the most insignificant feat- 
ures of it, — a giant work ordained by a giant Try, im- 
prudent young ladies, to escape not only the eye of the 
police, but the incessant chatter which takes place in a 
country town about the veriest trifles, — how many dishes 
the prefect has at his dessert, how many slices of melon 
are left at the door of some small householder, — which 
strains its ear to catch the chink of the gold a thrifty 
man lays by, and spends its evenings in calculating the 
incomes of the village and the town and the department. 
It was mere chance that enabled Modeste to escape dis- 
covery through Ernest's reconnoitring expedition, — a 
step which he already regretted ; but what Parisian can 
allow himself to be the dupe of a little country girl? 
Incapable of being duped! that horrid maxim is the 
dissolvent of all noble sentiments in man. 

We can readily guess the struggle of feeling to which 
this honest young fellow fell a prey when we read the 
letter that he now indited, in which every stroke of the 
flail which scourged his conscience will be found to 
have left its trace. 



Modeste Mignon. 93 

This is what Modeste read a few days later, as she 
sat by her window on a fine summer's day : — 

Mademoiselle, — Without hypocrisy or evasion, yes, 
if I had been certain that you possessed an immense 
fortune I should liave acted differently. Why? I have 
searched for the reason ; here it is. We have within 
lis an inborn feeling, inordinately developed by social 
life, which drives us to the pursuit and to the posses- 
sion of happiness. Most men confound happiness with 
the means that lead to it ; money in their eye& is the 
chief elenipnt of-happiness. I should, therefore, have 
endeavored to win you, prompted by that social senti- 
ment which has in all ages made wealtbj relig ion. 
At least, I think I should. It is not to be expected of 
a man still young that he can have the wisdom to 
substitute sound sense for the pleasure of the senses ; 
within sight of a prey the brutal instincts hidden in the 
heart of man drive him on. * Instead of that lesson, I 
should have sent 3^ou compliments and flatteries. Should 
I have kept my own esteem in so doing? I doubt it. 
Mademoiselle, in such a case success brings absolu- 
tion ; but happiness ? that is another thing. Should I 
have distrusted my wife had I won her in that way? 
Most assuredly I should. Your advance to me would 
sooner or later have come between us. Your husband, 
however grand j'our fancy may make him, would have 
ended by reproaching you for having abased him. 
You, yourself, might have come, sooner or later, to 
despise him. The strong man forgives, but the poet 
whines. Such, mademoiselle, is the answer which my 
honesty compels me to make to you. 



94 Modeste Mignon. 

And now, listen to me. You have the triamph of 
forcing me to reflect deeply, — first on you, whom I do 
not sufficiently know; next, on myself, of whom I 
knew too little. You have had the power to stir u^ 
many of the evil thoughts which crouched in my heart, 
as in all hearts ; but from them something good and 
generous has come forth, and I salute you with my 
most fervent benedictions, just as at sea we salute the 
lighthouse which shows the rocks on which we were 
about to perish. Here is my confession, for I would 
not lose your esteem nor my own for all the treasures 
of earth. 

I wished to know who you are. I have just returned 
from Havre, where I saw Fran^oise Cochet, and fol- 
lowed her to Ingouville. You are as beautiful as the 
woman of a poet's dream ; but I do not know if you 
are Mademoiselle Vilquin concealed under Mademoi- 
selle d'Herouville, or Mademoiselle d'H^rouville hidden 
under Mademoiselle Vilquin. Though aU is fair iu 
war, I blushed at such spying and stopped short in my 
inquiries. You have roused my curiosity ; forgive me 
for being somewhat of a woman ; it is, I believe, the 
privilege of a poet. 

Now that I have laid bare my heart and allowed you 
to read it, you will believe in the sincerity of what I 
am about to add. Though the glimpse I had of you 
was all too rapid, it has sufficed to modify my opinion 
of your conduct. You are' a poet and_,a _poem, ey giL' 
more than you are a jvoman. Yes, there is in you 
something more precious than beauty ; you are the 
beautiful Ideal of art, of fancy. The step j'ou took, 
blamable as it would be in an ordinary young girl, 



Modeste Mignon. 95 

allotted to an everj'-day destin3% has another aspect in 
one endowed with the nature which I now attribate to 
you. Among the crowd of beings flung by fate into 
the social life of this planet to make up a generation 
there are exceptional souls. If your letter is the out- 
come of long poetic reveries on the fate which conven- 
tions bring to women, if, constrained by the impulse 
of a lofty and intelligent mind, you have wished to 
understand the life of a man to whom you attribute the 
gift of genius, to the end that you may create a friend- 
ship withdrawn from the ordinary relations of life, with 
a soul in communion with your own, disregarding thus 
the ordinary trammels of your sex, — then, assuredly, 
you are an exception. The law which rightly limits 
the actions of the crowd is too limited for you. But in 
that case, the remark in my first letter returns in greater 
force, — you have done too much or not enough. 

Accept once more my thanks for the service you 
have rendered me, that of compelling me to sound my 
heart. You have corrected in me the false idea, only 
too common in France, that mariiage should be a 
means of fortune. While I struggled with my con- 
science a sacred voice spoke to me. I swore solemnly 
to make my fortune myself, and not be led by mo- 
tives of cupidity in choosing the companion of my 
life. I have also reproached myself for the blam- 
able curiosity you have excited in me. You have not 
six millions. There is no concealment possible in 
Havre for a young lady who possesses such a fortune ; 
you would be discovered at once by the pack of hounds 
of great families whom I see in Paris on the hunt after 
heiresses, and who have already sent one, the grand 



96 Modeste Mignan. 

equerry, the young duke, among the Vilquins. There- 
fore, believe me, the sentiments I have now expressed 
are fixed in my mind as a rule of life, from which I 
have abstracted all influences of rofnance or of actual 
fact Prove to me, therefore, that you have one of 
those souls which may be forgiven for its disobedience 
to the common law, by perceiving and comprehending 
the spirit of this letter as you did that of my first letter. 
If you are destined to a middle-class life, obe}' the iron 
law which holds society together. Lifted in mind 
above other women, I admire you ; but if you seek to 
obey an impulse which you ought to repress, I pity you. 
The all- wise moral of that great domestic epic '^Clarissa 
Harlowe" is that legitimate and honorable love led the 
poor victim to her ruin because it was conceived, de- 
veloped, and pursued beyond the boundaries of family 
restraint. The family, however cruel and even foolish 
it may be, is in the right against the Lovelaces. The 
family is Society. Believe me, the glory of a young 
girl, of a woman, must always be that of repressing 
her most ardent impulses within the narrow sphere of 
conventions. If I had a daughter able to become a 
Madame de Stael I should wish her dead at fifteen. 
Can you imagine a daughter of yours flaunting on the 
stage of fame, exhibiting herself to win the plaudits of 
a crowd, and not suffer anguish at the thought? No 
matter to what heights a woman can rise by the inward 
poetry of her soul, she must sacrifice the outer signs of 
superiority on the altar of her home. Her impulse, her 
genius, her aspirations toward Good, the whole poem 
of a young girl's being, should belong to the man she 
accepts and the children whom she brings into the 



Modeste Mignon. 9T 

world. I think I perceive in yoa a secret desire to 
widen the narrow circle of the life to which all women are 
condemned, ^d to put love and passion into marriage. 
Ah I it is a lovely dream ! it is not impossible ; it is 
dilficalt, but if realized, may it not be to the despair of 
souls — forgive me the hackneyed word — incomprisf 

If you seek a platonic friendship it will be to your 
sorrow in after years. If your letter was a jest, dis- 
continue it. Perhaps this little romance is to end here 
— is it? It has not been without fruit. My sense of 
duty is aroused, and you, on your side, will have 
learned something of Society. Turn your thoughts to 
real life; throw the enthusiasms you have culled. frpm 
literature into the virtues of your sex. 

Adieu, mademoiselle. Do me the honor to grant 
me your esteem. Having seen you, or one whom I 
believe to be you, I have known that your letter was 
simply natural ; a flower so lovely turns to the sun — 
of poetry. Yes, love poetry as you love flowers, 
music, the grandeur of the sea, the beauties of nature ; 
love them as an adornment of the soul, but remember 
what I have had the honor of telUng you as to the 
nature of poets. Be cautious not to marry, as you say, 
a dunce, but seek the partner whom God has made for 
you. There are souls, believe me, who are fit to ap- 
preciate j'ou, and to make you happy. If I were rich, 
if you were poor, I would lay my heart and my fortunes 
* at your feet ; for I believe your soul to be full of riches 
and of loyalty ; to you I could confide my life and my 
honor in absolute security. 

dnce more, adieu, adieu, fairest daughter of Eve the 
fair. 

7 



98 Mode«te Mignon. 

The reading of this letter, swallowed like a drop of 
water in the desert, lifted the mountain which weighed 
heavily on Modeste's heart : then she saw the mistake 
she had made in arranging her plan, and repaired it by 
giving Fran9oise some envelopes directed to herself, in 
which the maid could pat the letters which came from 
Paris and drop them again into the box. Modeste re- 
solved to receive the postman herself on the steps of 
the Chalet at the hour when he made his delivery. 

As to the feelings that this reply, in which the noble 
heart of poor La BrierB beat beneath the brilliant phan- 
tom of Canalis, excited in Modeste, they were as multl- 
farioas and confiised as the waves which rushed to die 
along the shore while with her eyes fixed on the wide 
ocean she gave herself up to the joy of having (if we 
dare say so) harpooned an angelic soul in the Parisian 
Gulf, of having divined that hearts of price might still 
be found in harmony with genius, and, above all, for 
having followed the magic voice of intuition. 

A vast interest was now about to animate her life. 
The wires of her cage were broken : the bolts and bars 
of the pretty Chalet — where were they ? Her thoughts 
took wings. 

^^ Oh, father! " she cried, looking out to the horizon. 
" Come back and make us rich and.hapgy." 

The answer which Ernest de La Briere received some 
five days later will tell the reader more than any elab- 
orate disquisition of ours. 



Modeste Mignan. 99 



CHAPTER IX. 

THE POWEB OF THE UKSEEN. 

To Monsieur de Canalis : 

My friend, — Suffer me to give you that name, — 
you have delighted me; I would not have you other 
than you are in this letter, the first — oh, may it not be 
the last ! Who but a poet could have excused and un- 
derstood a 3'oung girl so delicately? 

I wish to speak with the sincerity that dictated the 
first lines of your letter. And first, let me say that 
most fortunately you do not know me. I can joyfully 
assure you that I am neither that hideous Mademoiselle 
Vilquin nor the very noble and withered Mademoiselle 
d'H^i-ouville who floats between twenty and forty 3'ears 
of age, unable to decide on a satisfactory date. The 
Cardinal d'Herouville flourished in the history of the 
Church at least a centurj' before the cardinal of whom 
we boast as our only family glory, — for I take no 
account of lieutenant-generals, and abbes who write 
trumpery little verses. 

Moreover, I do not live in the magnificent villa Vil- 
quin; there is not in my veins, thank God, the ten- 
millionth of a drop of that chilly blood which flows 
behind a counter. I come on one side from Germany, 
on the other from the south of France ; my mind has a 



100 Modefte Mignon. 

Teutonic love of revery, my blood the vivacity of Pro- 
vence. I am noble o n my father's and on mv motber^s^ 
side. On my mother's I derive from every page of the 
iJmanach de Gothal In short, my precautions are well 
taken. It is not in any man's power, nor even in the 
power of the law, to unmask my incognito. I shall 
remain veiled, unknown. 

As to my person and as to my *' belongings," as the 
Normans saj^, make yourself easy. I am at least as 
handsome as the little girl (ignorantly happy) on whom 
your eyes chanced to light during your visit to Havre ; 
and I do not call myself poverty-stricken, although ten 
sons of peers ma}^ not accompany me in my walks. I 
have seen the humiliating comedy of the heiress sought 
for her millions plaj^ed on my account. In short, make 
no attempt, even on a wager, to reach me. Alas! 
tiinngrhfrfifl aa ftjr, I am w atchc d and ^uarded,^r - by 
myself, in the first place, and secondly, by people of 
nerve and courage who would not hesitate to put a 
knife in your heart if you tried to penetrate my retreat. 
I do not say this to excite your courage or stimulate 
your curiosity ; I believe I have no need of such incen- 
tives to interest yoxx and attach jou to me. 

I will now reply to the second edition, considerably 
enlarged, of your first sermon. 

Will you have a confession? I said to myself when 
I saw you so distrustful, and mistaking me for Corinne 
(whose improvisations bore me dreadfully), that in all 
probability dozens of Muses had already led you, rashly 
curious, into their valleys, and begged you to taste the 
fruits of their boarding-school Parnassus. Oh I you are 
perfectly safe with me, my friend ; I may love poetry. 



Modeste Mignon. 101 

bat I have no little verses in my pocket-book, and my 
stockings are, and will remain, immaculately white. You 
shall not be pestered with the " Flowers of my Heart " 
in one or more volumes. And, finally, should it ever 
happen that I say to yon the word " Come ! " you will 
not find — -you know it now — an old maid, no, nor a 
poor and ugly one: 

Ah ! my friend, if you only knew how I regret that 
3'ou came to Havre ! You have lowered the charm of 
what you call my romance. God alone knew the treas- 
ure I was reserving for the man noble enough, and 
trusting enough, and perspicacious enough to come — 
having faith in my letters, having penetrated step by 
step into the depths of my heart — to come to our first 
meeting with the simplicity of a child: for that was 
what I dreamed to be the innocence of a man of genius. 
And now you have spoiled my treasure ! But I forgive 
you ; 3'ou live in Paris and, as you say, there is alwaj^s 
a nmn within a poet. 

Because I tell you this will you think me some little 
girl who cultivates a garden-full of illusions? You, 
who are wittj' and wise, have you not guessed that 
when Mademoiselle d*Este received 3'our pedantic les- 
son she said to herself: " No, dear poet, my first let- 
ter was not the pebble which a vagabond child flings 
about the highway to frighten the owner of the adjacent 
fruit-trees, but a net carefully and prudently thrown by 
a fisherman seated on a rock above the sea, hoping and 
expecting a miraculous draught." 

All that you say so beautifhlly about the family has 
my approval. The man who is able to please me, and 
of whom I believe myself worthy, will have my heart 



102 Modeste Mignan. 

and my life, •. — with the consent of my parents, for I will 
neither grieve them, nor take them unawares : happily, 
I am certain of reigning over them ; and, besides, they 
are wholly without prejudices. Indeed, in every way, 
I feel myself protected against any delusions in my 
dream. I have built the fortress with my own hands, 
and I have let it be fortified by the boundless devotion 
of those who watch over me as if I were a treasure, — 
not that I am unable to defend myself in the open, if 
need be ; for, let me say, circumstances have furnished 
me with armor of proof on which is engraved the word 
^^ Disdain." I have the deepest horror of all that is 
" calculating — of all that is not pure, disinterested, and 
wholly noble. I worship the beautiful, the ideal, with- 
out being romantic ; though I have been, in my heart of 
hearts, in my dreams. But I recognize the truth of the 
various things, just even to vulgarity, which you have 
written me about Society and social life. 

For the time being we are, and we can only be, two 
fHends. Whj' seek an unseen friend ? j'ou ask. Tour 
person may be unknown to me, but your mind, your 
heart I know ; they please me, and I feel an infinitude 
of thoughts within my soul which need a man of genius 
for their confidant. I do not wish the poem of my 
heart to be wasted ; I would have it known to yon as it 
is to God. What a precious thing is a true comrade, 
one to whom we can tell all ! You will surely not re- 
ject the unpublished leaflets of a young girl's thoughts 
when they fly to you like the pretty insects fluttering to 
the sun? I am sure j'ou have never before met with 
this good fortune of the soul, — the honest confidences 
of an honest girl. Listen to her prattle ; accept the 



Mode^te Mignon. 103 

music that she sings to you in her own heart Later, if 
our souls are sisters, if our characters warrant the at- 
tempt, a white-haired old serving-man shall await jou 
b^y the wayside and lead you to the cottage, the villa, 
the castle, the palace — I don't yet know what sort of 
bower it will be, nor what its color, nor whether this 
conclusion will ever be possible ; but you will admit, 
will you not? that it is poetic, and that Mademoiselle 
d'Este has a complying disposition. Has she not left 
you free? Has she gone with jealous feet to watch you 
in the salons of Paris? Has she imposed upon you \j^Q 
labors of some high emprise, such as paladins sought 
Tolnntarih' in the olden time ? No, she asks a perfectly 
spiritual and mystic alliance. Come to me when you 
are unhappy, wounded, weary. Tell me all, hide noth- 
ing ; I have balms for all your ills. I am twenty years 
of age, dear friend, but I have the sense of fifty, and 
unfortunatelj' I have known through the experience of 
another all the horrors and the delights of love. I 
know what baseness the human heart can contain, what 
infamy ; yet I myself am an honest girl. No, I have 
no illusions; but I have something better, something 
real, — I have beliefs aad a religion. See ! I open the 
ball of our confidences. 

Whoever I marry — provided I choose him for my- 
self — may sleep in peace or go to the East Indies sure 
that he will find me on his return working at the tap- 
estry which I began before he left me ; and in every 
stitch he shall read a verse of the poem of which he has 
been the hero. Yes, I have resolved within my heart 
never to follow my husband where he does not wish 
me to go. I will be the divinity of his hearth. That 



104 ModeMte Mignon. 

is my religion of humanity. But why should I not test 
and choose the man to whom I am to be like the life 
to the body? Is a man ever impeded by life? What 
can that woman be who thwarts the man she loves ? — 
an illness, a disease, not life. By life, I mean that joy- 
ous health which makes each hour a pleasure. 

But to return to your letter, which will always be 
precious to me. Yes, jesting apart, it contains that 
which I desired, an expression of prosaic sentiments 
which are as necessary to family life as air to the 
lungs; and without which no happiness is possible. 
To act as an honest man, to think as a poet, to love as 
women love, that is what I longed for in my friend, 
and it is now no longer a chimera. 

Adieu, my friend. I am poor at this moment. That 
is one of the reasons why I cling to my concealment, 
my mask, my impregnable fortress. I have read your 
last verses in the " Revue," — ah ! with what delight, 
now that I am initiated in the austere loftiness of your 
secret soul. 

Will it make you unhappy to know that a young girl 
praj's for 3'ou; that 3'ou are her solitaiy thought, — 
without a rival except in her father and her mother? 
Can there be any reason why you should reject these 
pages full of 3'ou, written for you, seen by no eye but 
yours? Send me their counterpart. I am so little of 
a woman yet that 3'our confidences — provided they are 
full and true — will suffice for the happiness of 3'our 

O. d'Este M. 

"Good heavens! can I be in love already?" cried 
the young secretary, when he perceived that he had held 



Modeste Mignon. 105 

the above letter in his hands more than an hour after 
reading it. " What shall I do? She thinks she is writ- 
ing to the great poet ! Can I continue the deception ? 
Is she a woman of forty, or a girl of twenty ? " 

Ernest was now fascinated by the great gulf of the 
unseen. The unseen is the obscurity of infinitude, and 
nothing is more alluring. In that sombre vastness 
fires flash, and furrow and color the abyss with fancies 
like those of Martin. For a busy man like Canalis, an 
adventure of this kind is swept away like a harebell by 
a mountain torrent, but in the more unoccupied life of 
the young secretary, this charming girl, whom his im- 
agination persistently connected with the blonde beauty 
at the window, fastened upon his heart, and did as 
much mischief in his regulated life as a fox in a poultry- 
yard. La Briere allowed himself to be preoccupied by 
this mysterious correspondent; and he answered her 
last letter with another, a pretentious and carefully 
studied epistle, in which, however, passion begins to 
reveal itself through pique. 

Mademoiselle, — Is it quite loyal in you to enthrone 
yourself in the heart of a poor poet with a latent inten- 
tion of abandoning him if he is not exactly what you 
wish, leaving him to endless regrets, — showing him for 
a moment an image of perfection, were it only as- 
sumed, and at any rate giving him a foretaste of happi- 
ness ? I was ver^' short-sighted in soliciting this letter, 
in which you have begun to unfold the elegant fabric 
of 3'our thoughts. A man can easilj' become enamoured 
with a mysterious unknown who combines such fear- 
lessness with such originalitj^ so much imagination 



106 Modeste Mignon. 

with so mnch feeling. Who would not wish to know 
yoa after reading joar first confidence ? It requires a 
strong effort on my part to retain my senses in think- 
ing of you^ for you combine all that can trouble the 
head or the heart of man. I therefore make the most 
of the little self-possession you have left me to offer 
yon my humble remonstrances. 

Do you really believe, mademoiselle, that letters, 
more or less true in relation to the life of the writers, 
more or less insincere, — for those which we write 
to each other are the expressions of the moment at 
which we pen them, and not of the general tenor of our 
lives, — do you believe, I say, that beautiful as they 
may be, they can at all replace the representation that 
we could make of ourselves to each other by the reve- 
lations of daily intercourse ? Man is dual. There is a 
life invisible, that of the heart, to which letters may 
sufi9ce ; and there is a life material, to which more im- 
portance is, alas, attached than yOu are aware of at 
your age. These two existences must, however, be 
made to harmonize in the ideal which you cherish ; and 
this, I may remark in passing, is very rare. 

The pure, spontaneous, disinterested homage of a soli- 
tary soul which is both educated and chaste, is one of 
those celestial flowers whose color and fragrance console 
for every grief, for every wound, for every betrayal which 
makes up the life of a literary man ; and I thank you 
with an impulse equal to your own. But after this 
poetical exchange of my griefs for the pearls of your 
charit}', what next? what do you expect? I have 
neither the genius nor the splendid position of Lord 
Byron ; above all, I have not the halo of his fictitious 



Modeite Mignon. 107 

damnation and his false social woes. Bat what oonld 
you have hoped from him in like circumstances? His 
friendship? Well, he who ought to have felt only pride 
was eaten up by vanity of every kind, — sicjly, irritable 
vanity which discouraged friendship. I, a thousand- 
fold more insignificant than he, may I not have discord- 
ances of character which would render intercourse 
unpleasant, and make friendship a burden heavy indeed 
to bear? In exchange for your reveries, what will you 
gain? The dissatisfactions of a life which will not be 
wholly yours. The compact is madness. Let me tell 
you why. In the first place, 3'our projected poem is a 
plagiarism. A young German girl, who was not, like 
you, semi-German, but altogether so, adored Goethe 
with the rash intoxication of girlhood. She made him 
her friend, her religion, her god, knowing at the same 
time that he was manied. Madame Goethe, a worthy 
German woman, lent herself to this worship wHh a si}* 
good-nature which did not cure Bettina. But what 
was the end of it all? The young ecstatic married a 
man who was younger and handsomer than Goethe. 
Now, between ourselves, let us admit that a young 
girl who should make herself the handmaid of a man 
of genius, his equal through comprehension, and should 
piously worship him till death, like one of those divine 
figures sketched b}^ the masters on the shutters of their 
mystic shrines, and who, when Germany lost him, 
should have retired to some solitude away from men, 
like the friend of Lord Bolingbroke, — let us admit,* 
I say, that that j'oung girl would have lived forever, 
inlaid in the glory of the poet as Mary Magdalene in 
the cross and triumph of our Lord. If that is sublime, 



108 Modeste Mignon. 

what say you to the reverse of the picture? As I am 
neither Goethe nor Lord B3'ron, the colossi of poetry 
and egotism, but simph' the author of a few esteemed 
verses, I cannot expect the honors of a cult. Neither 
am I disposed to be a martyr. I have ambition, and I 
have a heart ; I am still 3'oung and I have my career 
to make. See me for what I am. The bountj' of the 
king and the protection of his ministers give me suf- 
ficient means of living. I have the outward bearing 
of a very ordinary man. I go to the soir^s in Paris 
like any other emptj'-headed fop ; and if I drive, the 
wheels of my carriage do not roll on the solid ground, 
absolutely indispensable in these days, of property in- 
vested in the funds. But if I am not rich, neither do 
I have the reliefs and consolations of life in a garret, 
the toil uncomprehended, the fame in penury, which 
belong to men who are worth far more than I, — 
D'Arthez, for instance. 

Ah I what prosaic conclusions will your young enthu- 
siasm find to these enchanting visions. Let us stop 
here. If I have had the happiness of seeming to you 
a terrestrial paragon, you have been to me a thing of 
light and a beacon, like those stars that shine for a 
moment and disappear. May nothing ever tarnish this 
episode of our lives. Were we to continue it I might 
love you ; I might conceive one of those mad passions 
which rend all obstacles, which light fires in the heart 
whose violence is greater than their duration. And 
'suppose I succeeded in pleasing you? we should end 
our tale in the common vulgar way, — marriage, a 
household, children, B^lise and Henriette Chrjsale to- 
gether! — could it be? Therefore, adieu. 



Modeste Mignon. 109 



CHAPTER X. 

THE MABBIAGB OF SOULS. 

To MonaietM* de CancUis : 

Mt Fbiend, — Yous letter gives me as much pain as 
pleasure. Bat perhaps some day we shall find nothing 
but pleasure in writing to each other. Understand me 
thoroaghl3% The soul speaks to God and asks him for 
many things ; he is mute. I seek to obtain in you the 
answers that God does not make to me. Cannot the 
friendship of Mademoiselle de Gournay and Montaigne 
be revived in us ? Do jou not remember the household 
of Sismonde de Sismondi in Geneva? The most lovely 
home ever known, as I have been told ; something like 
that of the Marquis de Pescaire and his wife, — happy 
to old age. Ah! friend, is it impossible that two 
hearts, two harps, should exist as in a symphony, an- 
swering each other from a distance, vibrating with deli- 
cious melody in unison ? Man alone of all creation 
is in himself the harp, the musician, and the listener. 
Do you think to find me uneasy and jealous like ordi- 
nary women? I know that you go into the world and 
meet the handsomest and the wittiest women in Paris. 
May I not suppose that some one of those mermaids 
has deigned to clasp you in her cold and scaly arms, 
and that she has inspired the answer whose prosaic 
opinions sadden me ? There is something in life more 



ri ^ or Ttffr ^w 



110 Modeste Mlgnon^ 

beaatiful than, the garlands of Parisian coquetry ; there 
grows a flower far up those Alpine peaks called men of 
genius, the glory of humanity, which they fertilize with 
the dews their lofty heads draw from the skies. I seek 
to cultivate that flower and make it bloom ; for its wild 
yet gentle fragrance can never fail, — it is eternal. 

Do me the honor to believe that there is nothing low 
or commonplace in me. Were I Bettina, for I know 
to whom you allude, I should never have become Ma- 
dame von Arnim ; and had I been one of Lord Byron's 
man}' loves, I should be at this moment in a cloister. 
You have touched me to the quick. You do not know 
me, but 3*ou shall know me. I feel within me something 
that is sublime, of vhich I dare speak without vanity. 
God has put into my soul the roots of that Alpine 
flower bom on the summits of which I speak, and I 
cannot plant it in an earthen pot upon my window-sill 
and see it die. No^ that glorious flower-cup, single in 
its beauty, intoxicating in its fragrance, shall not be 
dragged through the vulgarities of life I it is yours — 
yours, before any eye has blighted it, yours forever! 
Yes, my poet, to you belong my thoughts, — all, those 
that are secret, those that are gayest ; my heart is yours 
without reserve and with its infinite affection. If you 
should personally not please me, I shall never marry. 
I can live the life of the heart, I can exist on your mind, 
your sentiments ; they please me, and I will alwaj's be 
what I am, your friend. Yours is a noble moral nature ; 
I have recognized it, I have appreciated it, and that 
suffices me. In that is all m}' future. Do not laugh at 
a 3'oung and pretty handmaiden who shrinks not from 
the thought of being some day the old compauion of a 



Modeste Mignon. Ill 

poet, -—a sort of mother perhaps, or a housekeeper ; the 
guide of his jadgment and a source of his wealth. This 
handmaiden — so devoted, so precious to the lives of 
such as you — is Friendship, pure, disinterested friend- 
ship, to whom jou will tell all, who listens and some- 
times shakes her head ; who knits by the light of the 
lamp and waits to be present when the poet returns home 
soaked with rain, or vexed in mind. Such shall be my 
destiny if I do not find that of a happy wife attached 
forever to her husband; I smile alike at the thought 
of either fate. Do you believe France will be any the 
worse if Mademoiselle d'Este does not give it two or 
three sons, and never becomes a Madame Vilquin- 
something-or-other? As for me, I j)iall never be, an 
old maid. I shall make myself a mother, by taking 
care of others and by my secret co-operation in the 
existence of a great man, to whom also I shall carry 
all my thoughts and all my earthl}^ efforts. 

I have the deepest horror of commonplaceness. If 
I am free, if I am rich (and I know that I am ^oung 
and pretty), I will never belong to any ninny just 
because he is the son of a peer of France, nor to a 
merchant who could ruin himself and me in a day, nor 
to a handsome creature who would be a sort of woman 
in the household, nor to a man of any kind who 
would make me blpsh twenty times a day for being 
his. Make yourself easy on that point. My father 
adores my wishes ; he will never oppose them. If I 
please my poet, and he pleases me, the glorious struc- 
ture of our love shall be built so high as to be inacces- 
sible to any kind of misfortune. I am an eaglet ; and 
you will see it in my eyes. 



li 



112 Modeste Mignon. 

I shall not repeat what I have already said, but I 
will put its substance in the least possible number of 
words, and confess to you that I should be the happiest 
of women if I were imprisoned by love as I am now 
imprisoned by the wish and will of a father. Ah ! 
my friend, may we bring to a real end the romance 
that has come to us through the first exercise of my 
will: listen to its argument: — 

A young girl with a lively imagination, locked up in 
a tower, is weary with longing to run loose in the park 
where her eyes only are allowed to rove. She invents 
a way to loosen her bars ; she jumps from the case- 
ment ; she scales the park wall ; she frolics along the 
neighbor*s swar4^ it is the Everlasting comedy. 
Well, that young girl is my soul, the neighbor*s park 
is your genius. Is it not all very natural? Was there 
ever a neighbor that did not complain that unknown 
feet broke down his trellises? I leave it to my poet 
to answer. 

But does the loftj^ reasoner after the fashion of Mo- 
liere want still better reasons? Well, here they are. 
My dear Geronte, marriages are usually made in de- 
fiance of common-sense. Parents make inquiries about 
a young man. If the Leander — who^is supplied by 
some friend, or caught in a ball-room — is not a thief, 
and has no visible rent in his reputation, if he has the 
necessary fortune, if he comes from a college or a law- 
school and so fulfils the popular ideas of education, and 
if he wears his clothes with a gentlemanly air, he is 
allowed to meet the young lady, whose mother has or- 
dered her to guard her tongue, to let no sign of her 
heart or soul appear on her face, which must wear the 



Modeste Mignon. 113 

smile of a danseuse finishing a pirouette. These com- 
mands are coupled with instructions as to the dan- 
ger of revealing her real character, and the additional 
advice of not seeming alarmingly well educated. If 
the settlements have all been agreed upon, the parents 
are good-natured enough to let the pair see each other 
for a few moments ; they are allowed to talk or walk 
together, but always without the slightest freedom, and 
knowing that they are bound by rigid rules. The man 
is as much dressed up in soul as he is in body, and so 
is the young girl. This pitiable comedy, mixed with 
bouquets, jewels, and theatre-parties is called " paying 
your addresses." It revolts me : I desire that actual 
marriage shall be the result of a previous and long mar- 
riage of souls. A young girl, a woman, has throughout 
her life only this one moment when reflection, second 
sight, and experience are necessary to her. She plays 
her liberty, her happiness, and she is not allowed to 
throw the dice ; she risks her all, and is forced to be 
a mere spectator. I have the right, the will, the power 
to make my own unhappiness, and I use them, as did 
my mother, who, won by beauty and led by instinct, 
married the most generous, the most liberal, the most 
loving of men. I know that you are free, a poet, and 
noble-looking. Be sure that I should not haye chosen 
one of your brothers in Apollo who was already married. 
If my mother was won by beauty, which is perhaps the 
spirit of form, why should I not be attracted by the 
spirit and the form united? Shall I not know j'ou bet- 
ter by studying yon in this correspondence than I could 
through the vulgar experience of "receiving your ad- 
dresses '* ? That is the question, as Hamlet says. 

8 



114 Modeste Mzghon, 

Bat ray proceedings, dear Chrysale, have at least the 
merit of not binding us personally. I know that love 
has its illusions, and every illusion its to-morrow. That 
is why there are so many partings among lovers vowed 
to each other for life. The proof of love lies in two 
things, — suffering and happiness. When, after pass- 
ing through these double trials of life two beings have 
shown each other their defects as well as their good 
qualities, when they have really observed each other's 
character, then they may go to their grave hand in 
hand. My dear Argante, who told you that our little 
drama thus begun was to have no future? In any 
case shall we not have. enjoyed the pleasures of oar 
correspondence? '* 

I await your orders, monseigneur, and I am with all 
my heart, 

Your handmaiden, 

O. d'Estb M, 



To Mademoiselle O. d'Este M., — You are a 
witch, a spirit, and I love you I Is that what yoa 
desire of me, most original of girls? Perhaps you 
are only seeking to amuse your provincial leisure with 
the follies which you are able to make a poet com- 
mit. If so, you have done a bad deed. Your two 
letters have enough of the spirit of mischief in them 
to force this doubt into the mind of a Parisian. But 
I am no longer master of myself; my life, my future 
depend on the answer you will make unu. Tell me 
if the certainty of an unbounded Affcctior^ oblivious 
of all social conventions, will toucL you, — if yon will 



Modeste SUffnon* 115 

suffer me to seek yon. There is anxiety enough and 
uncertainty enough in the question as to whether I can 
personally please you. If j^our reply is favorable I 
change my life, I bid adieu to all the irksome pleasures 
which we have the folly to call happiness. Happiness, 
ray dear and beautiful unknown, is what 3'ou di-eam it 
to be, — aflision of feelings, a perfect accordance of 
souls, the imprint of a noble ideal (such as God does 
permit us to form in this low world) upon the trivial 
round of daily life whose habits we must needs obey, a 
constancy of heart more precious far than what we call 
fidelity. Can we say that we make sacrifices when the 
end in view is our eternal good, the dream of poets, 
the dream of maidens, the poem which, at the entrance 
of life when thought essays its wings^ each noble intel- 
lect has pondered and caressed only to see it shivered 
to fragments on some stone of stumbling as hard as it 
is vulgar? — for to the great majority of men, the foot 
of reality steps instantly on that mysterious egg so 
seldom hatched. 

I cannot speak to you any more of myself; not of 
my past life, nor of my character, nor of an afi'ection 
almost maternal on one side, filial on mine, which you 
have already seriously changed — an effect upon my 
life which must explain my use of the word '' sacrifice." 
You have already rendered me forgetful, if not ungrate- 
fbl ; does that satisfy you ? Oh, speak ! Say to me 
one word, and I will love j'ou till my eyes close in 
death, as the Marquis de Pescaire loved his wife, as 
Romeo loved Juliet, and faithfully. Our life will be, 
for me at least, that " felicity untroubled" which Dante 
made the verj' element of his Paradiso, — a poem far 



116 Mbdeite Mignon. 

Bnperior to his Inferno. Strange, It is not myself that 
I doubt in the long reveries through which, like you, I 
follow the windings of a dreamed existence ; it is you. 
Yes, dear, I feel within me the power to love, and to 
love endlessly, — to march to the grave with gentle slow- 
ness and a smiling eye, with my beloved on my arm, and 
with never a cloud upon the sunshine of our souls. Yes, 
I dare to face our mutual old age, to see ourselves with 
whitening heads, like the venerable historian of Italy, 
inspired always with the same affection but transformed 
in soul by our life's seasons. Hear me, I can no longer 
be your friend only. Though Chrysale, Geronte, and 
Argante re-live, you say, in me, I am not yet old 
enough to drink from the cup held to my lips by the 
sweet hands of a veiled woman without a passionate 
desire to tear off the domino and the mask and see the 
face. Either write me no more, or give me hope. Let 
me see you, or let me go. Must I bid you adieu? Will 
you permit me to sign myself, 

Yoctt Friend? 

To Monsieur de Canalis, — What flattery! with 
what rapidity is the grave Anselme transformed into a 
handsome Leander ! To what must I attribute such a 
change? to this black which I put upon this white? 
to these ideas which are to the flowers of my soul 
what a rose drawn in charcoal is to the roses in the 
garden? Or is it to a recollection of the young girl 
whom you took for me, and who is personally as like 
me as a waiting- woman is like her mistress ? Have we 
changed r6les? Have I the sense? have you the fancy? 
But a truce with jesting. 



Modeste Mignan. 117 

Tour letter has made me kiK>w the elating pleasures 
of the soul ; the first that I have known outside of my 
family affections. What, says a poet, are the ties of 
blood which are so strong in ordinary minds, compared 
to those divinely forged within us by mysterious sym- 
pathies? Let me thank yqu -r^no, we must not thank 
each other for sxicb things-^ but Grod bless you for the 
happiness you have given me ; be happy in the Joy you 
have shed into my soul. You explain to me some of 
the apparent i^juatices in social Ufe^ There is some- 
thing, I know not what» so dazzling, so virile in glory, 
that it belongs only to man ; God forbids us women to 
wear its halo, but he makes love our portion, giving us 
the tenderness which soothes the brow scorched by his 
lightnings. I have felt my mission^ and you have now 
confirmed it* 

Sometimes, my fHend, I rise in the morning in a 
state of inexpressible sweetness ; a soil; of peace, ten- 
der and divine, gives me an idea of heaven. My first 
thonght is then like a benedictioai I call these morn- 
ings my littie German wakings, in opposition to my 
Southern sunsets, fuU of heroic deeds, battles, Roman 
fiMies and ardent poems. Well, after reading your letter, 
so full of feverish impatience, I felt in my heart all the 
freshness of my celestial wakings, when I love the air 
abont me and all nature, and fancy that I am destined 
to die for one I love. One of your poems, ''The 
Maiden's Song," paints these delicious moments, when 
gayety is tender, when aspiration is a need ; it is one 
of my favorites. Do you want me to put all my flat- 
teries into one? — well then, I think you worthy to be 
me/ 



118 Modeste Mignon. 

Your letter, though short, enables me to read within 
you. Yes, I have guessed your tumultuous struggles, 
your piqued curiosity, your projects; but I do not 
yet know you well enough to satisfy your wishes. 
Hear me, dear^; the mystery in which I am shrouded 
allows me to use that word, which lets you see to the 
bottom of my heart. Hear me : if we once meet, adiea 
to our mutual comprehension ! -Will you make a com* 
pact with me? Was the first disadvantageous to you? 
But remember it won you my esteem, and 4t is a great 
deal, my friend, to gain an admiration lined throughout 
with esteem. Here is the compact : writer me your life 
in a few words ; then teU me what you do in Paris, day 
by day, with no reservations, and as if you were talking 
to some old friend. Well, having done that, I will 
take a step myself — I will see you, I promise you that 
And it is a great deal. 

This, dear, is no intrigue, no adventure ; no gallantry, 
as you men say, can come of it, I warn you frankly. 
It involves my life, and more than that, -* something 
that causes me remorse for the many thoughts that fly 
to you in flocks — it involves my father's and my 
mother's life. I adore them, and my choice must 
please them; they must find a son in you. 

Tell me, to what extent can the superb spirits of your 
kind, to whom God has given the wings of his angels, 
without always adding their amiability, — how far can 
they bend under a family 3'oke, and put up with its little 
miseries? That is a text I have meditated upon. Ah ! 
though I said to my heart before I came to you, For- 
ward ! Onward ! it did not tremble and palpitate any 
the less on the way ; and I did not conceal fi'om myself 



Modeate Mignan. 119 

the ^toniness of the path nor the Alpine difiSeulties I 
had to encounter. I thought of all in my long, long 
meditations. Do I not know that eminent men like you 
have known the love they have inspired quite as well 
as that which they themselves have felt ; that they have 
had many romances in their lives, — you particularly, 
who send forth those sXry visions of your soul that 
women rush to buy? Yet still I cried to myself, '' On- 
ward ! " because I have studied, more than you give me 
credit for, the geography of the great summits of hu- 
manity, which you tell me are so cold. Did you not 
say that Goethe and Byron were the colossi of egoism 
and poetry? Ah, my friend, there you shared a mistake 
into which superficial minds are apt to fall ; but in you 
perhaps it came fh>m generosity, false modesty, or the 
desire to escape from me. Vulgar minds may mistake 
the effects of toil for the development of personal char- 
acter, but you must not. Neither Lord Byron, nor 
Goethe, nor Walter Scott, nor Cuvier, nor any inventor, 
belongs to himself, ^^.i&.Jttbi& Qlave of his idea.. . And 
this mysterious power is more jealous than a woman ; 
it sucks their blood, it makes them live, it makes , 
them die for its sake. The visible developments of 
their hidden existence do seem, in their results, like 
egotism ; but who shall dare to say that the man who 
has abnegated self to give pleasure, instruction, or gran- 
deur to his epoch, is an egoist? Is a mother selfish 
when she immolates all things to her child? Well, the 
detractors of genius do not perceive its fecund mater- 
nity, that is all. The life of a poet is so perpetual a 
sacrifice that he needs a gigantic oi^anization to bear 
even the ordinary pleasures of life. Therefore, into 



120 Modeste Mignon. 

what sorrows may he not fall wh^ like Moliere, he 
wishes to live the life of feeling in its most poignant 
crises ; to me, remembering his personal life, Moliere's 
oome(\y^ is horrible. 

The generosity of genius seems to me half divine ; 
and I place you in this noble family of alleged egoists. 
Ah I if I had found self-interest, ambition, a seared na- 
ture where I now can see my best loved flowers of the 
soul, you know not what long anguish I should have had 
to bear. I met witii disappointment before I was sixteen. 
What would have become of me had I learned at twenty 
that fame is a lie, that he whose books express the feel- 
ings hidden in my heart was incapable of feeling them* 
himself? Oh! my friend, do you know what would 
have become of me ? Shall I take you into the recesses 
of my soul ? I should have gone to my father and said, 
^' Bring me the son-in-law whom you desire ; my will ab- 
dicates, — marry me to whom you please. " And the man 
might have been a notary, banker, miser, fooU dullard, 
wearisome as a rainy day, common as the usher of a 
school, a manufacturer, or some brave soldier without 
two ideas, — he would have had a resigned and atten* 
tive servant in me. But what an awful suicide ! never 
could my soul have expanded in the life-giving rays of 
a beloved sun. No murmur should have revealed to 
my father, or my mother, or mj^ children the suicide of 
the creature who at this instant is shaking her fetters, 
casting lightnings from her eyes, and flying towards you 
with eager wing. See, she is there, at the angle of your 
desk, like Polyhymnia, breathing the air of your presence, 
and glancing about her with a curious eye. , Sometimes 
in the flelds where my husband would have taken me 



Modeste Mignon. 121 

to walk, I should have wept, apart and secretly, at sight 
of a glorious morning ; and in my hearty or hidden in a 
burean-drawer^ I might have kept some treasure, the 
comfort of poor girls ill-used by love, sad, poetic souls, 
— but ah ! I have yow, I believe in yow, my friend. That 
belief straightens all my thoughts and fancies, even the 
most fantastic, and sometimes — see how far my frank- 
ness leads me — I wish I were in the middle of the 
book we are just beginning ; such persistency do I feel 
in my sentiments, such strength in my heart to love, 
such constancy sustained by reason^ such heroism for 
the duties for which I was created, — if indeed love can 
ever be transmuted into duty. 

If you were able to follow me to the exquisite re- 
tread where I fancy ourselves happy, if 3'ou knew my 
plans and projects, the dreadful word ^' folly ! " might 
escape you, and I should be cruelly punished, for send- 
ing poetry to a poet. Yes, I wish to be a spring of 
waters inexhaustible as a fertile land for the twenty 
years that nature allows me to shine. I want to drive 
away satiety by charm. I mean to be courageous for 
my friend as most women are for the world. I wish to 
vary happiness. I wish to put intelligence into tender- 
ness, and to give piquancy to fidelity. I am filled with 
ambition to kill the rivals of the past, to conjure away 
all outside griefs by a wife's gentleness, by her proud 
abnegation, to take a lifelong care of the nest, — such as 
birds can only take for a few weeks. 

Tell me, do you now think me to blame for my first 
letter? The mysterious wind of will drove me to you, 
as the tempest brings the little rose-tree to the pollard 
willow. In your letter, which I hold here upon my 



122 Modeste AEgnon. 

heart, you cried out, like your ancestor when he de- 
parted for the Crusades, " God wills it/' 

Ah! but you will cry out, ''What a chatterbox!" 
All the people round me say, on the contrary, " Made- 
moiselle is very taciturn/' 

O. d'Esib M. 



Modeste Mignon. 123 



CHAPTER XI. 

WHAT COMES OF COBRESPONDEKCS. 

The forgoing letters seemed very original to the per- 
sons from whom the author of the ^^ Comedy of Human 
Life" obtained them ; but their interest in this duel, this 
crossing of pens between two minds, may not be shared. 
For every hundred readers, eighty might weary of the 
battle. The respect due to the majority in every nation 
under a constitutional government, leads us, therefore, 
to suppress eleven other letters exchanged between 
Ernest and Modeste during the month of September. 
If, later on, some flattering majority should arise to 
claim them, let us hope that we can then And means to 
insert them in their proper place. 

Urged by a mind that seemed as aggressive as the 
heart was lovable, the truly chivalrous feelings of the 
poor secretary gave themselves free play in these 
suppressed letters, which seem, perhaps, more beau- 
tiful than they really are, because the imagination is 
charmed by a sense of the communion of two free souls. 
Emesf s whole life was now wrapped up in these 
sweet scraps of paper ; they were to him what bank- 
notes are to a miser; while in Modeste's soul a deep 
love took the place of her delight in agitating a glori- 
ous life, and being, in spite of distance, its mainspring. 
Ernest's heart was the complement of Canaiis's glory. 



124 Modeste Migwrn, 

Alas ! it often takes two men to make a perfect lover, 
Just as in literature we compose a type by collecting 
the peculiarities of several similar characters. How 
many a time a woman has been heard to say in her 
own salon after close and intloaate conversations : — 

'^ Such a one is my ideal as to soul, and I love the 
other. who i» only a dream of the senses." 

The last letter written by Modeste, which here fol- 
lows, gives us a glimpse of the enchanted ii^ to which 
the meanderings of this correspondence had led the two 
lovers. 

To Monsieur db Canalis, — Be at Ha^n^ next Sun- 
day ; go to church ; after the morning service^ walk 
once or twice round the nave, and go out without 
speaking to any one ; but wear a white rose in your 
button-hole. Then return to Paris, where you shall re- 
ceive an answer. I warn you that this answer will not 
be what you wish ; for, as I told 3'ou, the fbture is not 
yet mine. But should I not indeed be mad and foolish 
to. say yes without having seen 3'ou? When I have 
seen you I can say no without wounding you ; I can 
make sure that you shall not see me. 

This letter had been sent off the evening before tb^ 
day when the abortive struggle between Dumay and 
Modeste had taken place. The happy glri was impa* 
tiently awaiting Sunday, when her eyes were to vindi- 
cate or condemn her heart and her actions, --<- a solemn 
moment in the life of any woman, and which three 
months of a close communion of souls now rendered as 
romantic as the most imaginative maiden could have- 
wished. Every one, except the mother, bad taken this 



Modeste SUgnon. 125 

tbrpor of expectation for the calm of Innooenoe. No 
matter how firmly family laws and religioas precepts 
may bind, there will always be the Clarissas and the 
Jalies, whose souls like fiowing cops o*erlap the brim 
under some spiritual pressure. Modeste was glorious 
in the savage energy with which she repressed her 
exuberant youlAiful happiness and remained demurely 
qtiiet. Let us say frankly that the memory of her 
sister was more potent upcm her than any social con* 
ventions ; her will was iron in the resolve to bring no: 
grief upon her father and her mother. But what tu- 
multuous heaviiigs were within her breast ! no wonder 
that a mother guessed them. 

On the following day Modeste and Madame Dumay 
took Madame Mignon about mid-day to a seat in the 
sun among the fiowers. The blind woman turned her 
wan and blighted face toward the ocean ; she inhaled 
tlie odors of the sea and took the hand of her daughter 
who remained beside her. The mother hesitated between 
foigiveness and remonstrance ere she put the important 
question ; for she comprehended the girl's love and 
recognized, as the pr^^nded Canaiis had done, that 
Modeste was exceptional in nature. 

^^ God grant that your father return in time 1 If he 
delays much longer he will find none but you to love 
him. Modeste, promise me once more never to leave 
him," she said in a fond maternal tone. 

Modeste lifted her mother's hands to her lips and 
kissed them gently, replying : *' Need I say it again? " 

^^ Ah, my child I I did this thing myself. I left my 
father to follow my husband ; and yet my father was 
all alone ; I was all the child he had. Is that why 



126 Mode9te Migwm. 

Giod has so ponisbed me? What I ask of joa is to 
many as your father wishes, to cherish him in your 
heart, not to sacrifioe him to yonr own happiness, bat 
to make him the centre of your home. Before losing 
my sight, I wrote him all my wishes, and I know he 
will execute them. I enjoined him to keep his property 
intact and in his own hands ; not that I distrust you, 
my Modeste, for a moment, bat who can be sure of a 
son-in-law? Ah! my daughter, look at me; was I 
reasonable? One glance of the eye decided my life. 
Beauty, so often deceitful, in my case spoke true ; but 
even were it the same with you, my poor child, swear 
to me that you will let your father inquire into the 
character, the habits, the heart, and the previous life 
of the man you distinguish with your love — if, by 
chance, there is such a man." 

*'I will never marry without the consent of my 
father," answered Modeste. 

** You see, my darling," said Madame Mignon after 
a long pause, ^^ that if I am dying by inches through 
Bettina's wrong-doing, your father would not survive 
yours, no, not for a moment. I know him ; he would 
put a pistol to his head, — there could be no life, no 
happiness on earth for him." 

Modeste walked a few steps away from her mother, 
but immediately came back. 

"Why did you leave me?" demanded Madame 
Mignon. 

" You made me crjs mamma," answered Modeste. 

*' Ah, my little darling, kiss me. You love no one 
here ? you have no lover, have you ? " she asked, hold- 
ing Modeste on her lap, heart to heart. 



Modeste Mignon. 127 

^^ No, my dear mamma/' said the little Jesait. 

" Can you swear it? " 

" Oh, yes I " cried Modeste. 

Madame Mignon said no more ; but she still doubted. 

** At least, if you do choose your husband, yon will 
tell 3'our father? " she resumed. 

" I promised that to my sister, and to you, mother. 
What evil do you think I could commit while I wear 
that ring upon my finger and read those words: 
* Think of £ettina f ' Poor sister 1 " 

At these words a truce of silence came between the 
pair; the mother's blighted eyes rained tears which 
Modeste could not check, though she threw herself 
upon her knees, and cried: " Forgive me I oh, foi^ve 
me, mother!'' 

At this instant the excellent Dumay was coming up 
the hill of Ingouville on the double-quick, — a fact quite 
abnormal in the present life of the cashier. 

Three letters had brought ruin to the Mignons; a 
single letter now restored their fortunes. Dumay had 
received from a sea-captain just arrived from the China 
Seas the following letter containing the first news of his 
patron and friend, Charles Mignon : — 

To Monsieur Jean Dumay : 

My deab Dumay, — I shall quickly follow, barring the 
chances of the voyage, the vessel which carries this let- 
ter. In fact, I should have taken it, but I did not wish 
to leave my own ship to which I am accustomed. 

I told you that no news was to be good news. But 
the first words of this letter ought to make you a happy 
man. I have made seven millions at the least. I am 



128 Modeste Mignan. 

bringing back m large part of it in indigo, Oki« tiiird in 
safe London securities, and another third in good solid 
gold. Your remittances helped me to make the sum I 
had settled in my own mind much sooner than I ex- 
pected. I wanted two millioDs for my daughters atid 
a competence for myself* 

I have been ^igaged in the opium trade with the 
largest houses in Canton, ail ten times richer than ever 
I was. Toa have no idea, in Europe, wbat these rioh 
East India merchants are. I went to Asia Minor and 
purchased opium at low prices, and from thence to Can- 
ton where I delivered my cargoes to the companies who 
control the trade. My last expedition was tx) the Phi- 
lippine Islands where I exchanged opium for indigo of 
the first quality. In fact, I may have half a million 
more than I stated, for I reckoned the indigo at what 
it cost me. I have always bee n well in held th ; not the 
slightest illness. That is the liBsult of working for one's 
children, Since the second year f have oWRM U jpretty 
little brig of seven hundred tons, called the *^ Mignon.*' 
She is built of oak, double-planked, and copper-fastened ; 
and all the interior fittings were done to suit me. She 
is, in fact, an additional piece of property. 

A sea-life and the active habits required by my busi- 
ness have kept me in good health. To tell you all this 
is the same as telling it to my two daughters and my 
dear wife. I trust that the wretched man who took 
away my Bettina deserted her when he heard of my 
ruin ; and that I shall find the poor lost lamb at the 
Chalet. My three dear women and my Dumay ! All 
four of you have been ever present in my thoughts for 
the last thi*ee years. You are a rich man, now, Dumay. 



Modeste Mignon. 129 

Your share, outside of my own fortune, amounts to 
five hundred and sixty thousand francs, for which I 
send you herewith a check, which can only be paid to 
you in person by the Mongenods, who have been duly 
advised from New York. 

A few short months, and I shall see you all again, 
and all well, I trust. My dear Dumay, if I write this 
letter to you it is h^^^n^f^^Tmi) nnyi^wfl tn kpfp my for- 
tu ne a secret for the present . I therefore leave to you 
the happiness of preparing my dear angels for my re- 
turn. I h ave had enough o f commerce; and I am 
rrmrly^d In Ir^vft Fflvrp My intention is to Buj'^lback 



tS e^estate of La Bastie^ and to entail it, so as to es- 
t ablish an estate yi elding at leasraEundred thousand 
francs a vear. and then to ask the king to grant that one 
of my ^ftnfl-in- 1ftw nriflY Succeed to my name ajad ..titlp. 
You know, m}^ poor Dumaj- , what a terrible misfortune 
overtook us through the fatal reputation of a large for- 
tune, — my daughter's honor was lost. I have therefore 
resolved that the amount of my present fortune shall 
not be known. I shall not disembark at Havre, but at 
Marseilles. I shall sell my indigo, and negotiate for the 
purchase of La Bastie through the house of Mongenod 
in Paris. I shall put m^* funds in the Bank of France 
and return to the Chalet giving out that I have a con- 
siderable fortune in merchandise. My daughters will 
be supposed to have two or three hundred thousand 
francs. To choose which of myj^pjoadn-law is worthy 
to succeed to my title and estates and to live with us, 
is now the object ' of myTIferbnt both of them ihust 
be, like you and m e, honest, loyal, and firm men, a nd 
absolutely honorable . '^ 

9 



^y 



130 ModcMte Mignon. 

My dear old fellow, I have never doubted 3'ou for a 
moment. We have gone through wars and commerce 
together and now we will undertake agriculture; yon 
shall be my bailiff. You will like that, will 30U not? 
And so, old friend, I leave it to your discretion to 
tell what you think best to my wife and daughters ; I 
rel}' upon your prudence. In four years great changes 
may have taken place in their characters. 

Adieu, my old Dumay. Say to my daughters and to 
my wife that I have never failed to kiss Uiem in my 
thoughts morning and evening since I left them. The 
second check for forty thousand francs herewith en- 
closed is for my wife and children. 

Till we meet — Your colonel and Ariend, 

Charles Migkon. 

" Your father is coming," said Madame Mignon to 
her daughter. 

*' What makes you think so, mamma ? " asked 
Modeste. 

" Nothing else could make Dumay hurrj' himself." 

*' Victory ! victory ! " cried the lieutenant as soon as 
he reached the garden gate. ^^ Madame, the colonel 
has not been ill a moment ; he is coming back — coming 
back on the * Mignon,' a fine ship of his own, which 
together with its cargo is worth, he tells me, eight or 
nine hundred thousand francs. But he requires secrecy 
from all of us ; his heart is still wrung by the misfor- 
tunes of our dear departed girl." 

''He has still to learn her death," said Madame 
Mignon. 

'' He attributes her disaster, and I think he is right, 



Modeste Mignon. 181 

to the rapacity of young men after great fortunes. 
My poor colonel expects to find the lost sheep here. 
Let us be happy aniong ourselves but say nothing to 
any one, not e\'en to Latonrnelle, if that is possible. 
Mademoiselle," he whispered in Modeste's ear, ^^ write 
to 3'our father and tell him of his loss and also the ter- 
rible results on your mother's health and eyesight ; pre- 
pare him for the shock he has to meet. I will engage 
to get the letter into his hands before he reaches Havre, 
for he will have to pass through Paris on his way. 
Write him a long letter ; 3'ou have plentj" of time. I 
will take the letter on Monday ; Monday I shall pro- 
bably go to Paris." 

Modeste was so afraid that Canalis and Dumay 
would meet that she started hastily for the house to 
write to her poet and put off the rendezvous. 

^^Mademoiselle," said Dumay, in a very humble man- 
ner and barring Modeste's way, " may your father find 
his daughter with no other feelings in her heart than 
those she had for him and for her mother before he was 
obliged to leave her." 

'^ I have sworn to myself, to my sister, and to my 
mother to be the joy, the consolation, and the glory of 
my father, and I shall ke^ my oath I " replied Mo- 
deste with a haughty and disdainful glance at Duma^*. 
*' Do not trouble my delight in the thought of my 
father's return with insulting suspicions. You cannot 
prevent a girl's heart from beating — you don't want , 
me to be a mummy, do you?" she said. '' My hand J 
belongs to my family, but my heart is my own. If 1/ 
love any one, my father and my mother will know it. \ 
Does that satisfy you, monsieur?" 



\ 



182 Modeste Mignon. 

" Thank you, mademoiselle ; you restore me to life/* 
said Dnmay, ''but you might still call me Dumaj^ 
even when you box my ears I " 

" Swear to me," said her mother, " that you have 
not exchanged a word or a look with any ^oung man." 

'•'' I can swear that, m}^ dear mother," said Modeste, 
laughing, and looking at Dumay who was watching her 
and smiling to himself like a mischievous girl. 

^^ She must be false indeed if 3*ou are right," cried 
Dumay, when Modeste had left them and gone into the 
tiouse. 

^^ M3' daughter Modeste may have faults," said her 
mother, '' but falsehood is not one of them ; she is 
incapable of saying what is not true." 

^^Well! then let us feel easy/' continued Dumay, 
*' and believe that misfortune has closed his account 
with us." 

*' God grant it ! " answered Madame Mignon. " You 
will see him^ Dumay ; but I shall only hear him. There 
is much of sadness in my joy." 



Modeste Mignon. 133 



CHAPTER Xn. 

A DBCLARATION OF LOVE, — SET TO MUSIC. 

At this moment Modeste, happy as she was in the re- 
turn of her father, was, nevertheless, pacing her room dis- 
consolate as Perrette on seeing her eggs broken. She 
had hoped her father would bring back a much larger for- 
tune than Dumay had mentioned. Nothing could satisfy 
her new-found ambition on behalf of her poet less than 
at least half the six millions she had talked of in her 
second letter. Trebly agitated by her two joys and the 
grief caused by her comparative poverty, she seated her- 
self at the piano, that confidant of so man}^ 3'oung girls, 
who tell out their wishes and provocations on the keys, 
expressing them by the notes and tones of their music. 
Dumay was talking with his wife in the garden under 
the windows, telling her the secret of their own wealth, 
and questioning her as to her desires and her inten- 
tions. Madame Duma}' had, like her husband, no other 
family than the Mignons. Husband and wife agreed, 
therefore, to go and live in Provence, if the Comte de 
La Bastie really meant to live in Provence, and to leave 
their money to whichever of Modeste's children might 
seem to need it most. 

" Listen to Modeste," said Madame Mignon, ad- 
dressing them. " None but a girl in love can compose 
such airs without having studied music." 



134 Modeste Mignon. 

Houses may burn, fortunes be engulfed, fathers re- 
turn from distant lands, empires ma}' crumble away, the 
cholera may ravage cities, but a maiden's love wings 
its way as nature pursues hers, or that alarming acid 
which chemistry has latel}' discovered, and which will 
presently eat through the globe, if nothing stops it. 

Modeste, under the inspiration of her present situa- 
tion, was putting to music certain stanzas which we aT« 
compelled to quote here — albeit they are printed in. 
the second volume of the edition Dauriat had men- 
tioned — because, in order to adapt them to her music, 
which had the inexpressible charm of sentiment so ad- 
mired in great singers, Modeste had taken liberties 
with the lines in a manner that may astonish the ad- 
mirers of a poet so famous for the correctness, some- 
times too precise, of his measures. 

THE MAIDEN'S SONG. 

Heart, arise! the lark is shaking 
Sunlit wings that heavenward rise; 

Sleep no more; the violet, waking, 
Wafts her ineense to the skies. 

Flowers revived, their eyes unclosing, 

See themselves in drops of dew 
In each calyz-oup reposing, — 

Pearls of a day their mirror true. 

Breeze divine, the god of roses, 
Passed by night to bless their bloom*, 

See ! for him each bud uncloses, 
Glows, and yields its i*ich perfume. 



Mode%te Mignon. 135 

Then arise I the lark is shaking 
Sanlit wings that heavenward rise; 

Nought is sleeping — Heart, awaking, 
Lift thine incense to the skies. 

"It is very prett}'," said Madame Dumay. "Mo- 
deste is a musician, and that 's the whole of it." 

''The devil is in her! ** cried the cashier, into whose 
heart the suspicion of the mother forced its way and 
made him shiver. 

" She loves,'' persisted Madame Mignon. 

By succeeding, through the undeniable, testimony of 
the song, in making the cashier a sharer in her belief as 
to the state of Modeste's heart, Madame Mignon de- 
stroyed the happiness the return and the prosperity of 
his master had brought him. The poor Breton went 
down the hill to Havre and to his desk in Gobenheim's 
counting-room with a heavy heart ; then, before return- 
ing to dinner, he went to see Latoumelle, to tell his 
fears, and beg once more for the notary's advice and 
assistance. 

"Yes, my dear fHend," said Dumaj', when they 
parted on the steps of the notary's door, *' I now agree 
witli madame ; she loves, — yes, I am sure of it ; and 
the devil knows the rest. I am dishonored." 

" Don't make yourself unhappy, Dumay," answered 
the little notary. " Among us all we can surely get 
the better of the little puss ; sooner or later, every girl 
in love betrays herself, — you may be sure of that. 
But we will talk about it this evening." 

Thus it happened that all those devoted to the 
Mignon famil}' were fully as disquieted and uncertain 
as they were before the old soldier tried the experiment 



136 Modeite Mignon. 

which he expected would be so decisive. The ill-success 
of his past efforts so stimulated Dumay's sense of duty, 
that he determined not to go to Paris to see after his 
own fortune as announced by his patron, until he had 
guessed the riddle of Modeste's heart. These friends, 
to whom feelings were more precious than interests, 
well knew that unless the daughter were pure and in- 
nocent, the father would die of grief when he came to 
know the death of Bettina and the blindness of his wife. 
The distress of poor Dnmay made such an impression 
on the Latoqmelles that they even forgot their parting 
with Exup^re, whom they had sent off that morning to 
Paris. During dinner, while the three were alone. 
Monsieur and Madame Latoumelle and Butscha turned 
the problem over and over in then: minds, and discussed 
ever}^ aspect of it. 

'* If Modeste loved any one in Havre she would have 
shown some fear yesterday," said Madame Latournelle ; 
" her lover, therefore, lives somewhere else." 

" She swore to her mother this morning," said the 
notary, " in presence of Dumay, that she had not ex- 
changed a look or a word with anjr living soul" 

^' Then she loves after my &shion I " exclaimed 
Butscha. 

^' And how is that, my poor lad?" asked Madame 
Latournelle. 

*' Madame/' said the little cripple, " I love alone and 
afar — oh ! as far as from here to the stars." 

''How do 3'ou manage it, you silly fellow?" said 
Madame Latournelle, laughing. 

" Ah, madame ! "said Butscha, " what you call my 
hump is the socket of my wings." 



Modeste Mignon. 137 

"So that is the explanation of 3^our seal, is it?" 
cried the notary. 

Butscha's seal was a star, and under it the words 
Fulgens^ sequar^ — " Shining One, I follow thee," — 
the motto of the house of Chastillonest. 

" A beautiful woman may feel as distrustful as the 
ugliest,'* said Butscha, as if speaking to himself; 
*' Modeste is clever enough to fear she may be loved 
only for her beauty." 

Hunchbacks are extraordinary creations, due entirely 
to societ}''; for, according to Nature's plan, feeble or 
aborted beings ought to perish. The curvature or dis- 
tortion of the spinal column creates in these outwardly 
deformed subjects as it were a storage-batter}% where 
the nerve currents accumulate more abundantly than 
under normal conditions, — where they develop, and 
whence they are emitted, so to say, in lightning flashes, 
to energize the interior being. From this, forces result 
which are sometimes brought to light b3'^ magnetism, 
though they are far more fi-equently lost in the vague 
spaces of the spiritual world. It is rare to find a de- 
formed person who is not gifted with some special 
faculty, — a whimsical or sparkling gayety perhaps, an 
utter malignity, or an almost sublime goodness. Like 
instruments which the hand of art can never fully 
waken, these beings, highly privileged though they 
know it not, live within themselves, as Butscha lived, 
provided their natural forces so magnificently concen- 
trated have not been spent in the struggle they have 
been forced to maintain, against tremendous odds, to 
keep alive. This explains many superstitions, the pop- 
ular legends of gnomes, frightful dwarfs, deformed 



188 Mode»te Mignon. 

fairies, — all that race of bottles, as Babelais called 
them, containing elixirs and precious balms. 

Butscha, therefore, had very nearh' found the key 
to the puzzle. With all the anxious solicitude of a 
hopeless lover, a vassal ever ready to die, — like the 
soldiers alone and abandoned in the snows of Russia, 
who still cried out, " Long live the Emperor," — he med- 
itated how to capture Modeste's secret for his own pri- 
vate knowledge. So thinking, he followed his patrons 
tq the Chalet that evening, with a cloud of care upon 
his brow : for he knew it was most important to hide 
fh>m all these watchful eyes and ears the net, whatever 
it might be, in which he should entrap his lady. It 
would have to be, he thought, by some intercepted 
glance, some sudden start or quiver, as when a surgeon 
lays his finger on a hidden sore. That evening Goben- 
heim did not appear, and Butscha was Dumay's partner 
against Monsieur and Madame Latournelle. During 
the few moments of Modeste's absence, about nine 
o'clock, to prepare for her mother's bedtime, Madame 
Mignon and her friends spoke openly to one another; 
but th0 poor clerk, depressed bj^ the conviction of 
Modeste's love, which had now seized upon him as 
upon the rest, seemed as remote ftt>m the discussion as 
Gobenheim had been the night before. 

'' Well, what's the matter with you, Butscha?" cried 
Madame Latournelle; *'one would really think you 
hadn't a friend in the world." 

, Tears shone in the e^-es of the poor fellow, who was 
the son of a Swedish sailor, and whose mother was 
dead. 

" I have no one in the world but you," he answered 



Modeste Miffnon. 189 

with a troubled voice; "and 3'our compassion is so 
much a part of your religion that I can never lose it — 
and I will never deserve to lose it." 

This answer struck the sensitive ehoixi of true deli- 
cacy in the minds of all present. 

''We love you, Monsieur Butscha," said Madame 
Mignon, with much feeling in her voice. 

"I've six hundred thousand francs of my own, this 
day," cried Dumay, " and 3'ou shall be a notary and 
the successor of Latournelle." 

The American wife took the hand of the poor hunch- 
back and pressed it. 

" What ! you have six hundred thousand francs ! " 
exclaimed Latournelle, pricking up his ears as Dumay 
let fall the words; "and you allow these ladies to 
live as they do ! Modeste ought to have a fine horse ; 
and why docs n't she continue to take lessons in music, 
and painting, and — " 

" Why, he has only had the money a few hours ! " 
cried the little wife. 

" Hush ! " murmured Madame Mignon. 

While these words were exchanged, Butscha^s august 
mistress turned towards him, preparing to make a 
speech : — 

" M3' son," she said, " you are so surrounded by true 
affection that I never thought how my thoughtless 
use of that familiar phrase might be construed ; but 
you must thank me for my little blunder, because it 
has served to show you what friends 3'our noble qua- 
lities have won." 

" Then you -must have news from Monsieur Mignon," 
resumed the notary. 



140 ^ Modeate Mignon. 

^^ He is on his way home/' said Madame Mignon ; 
" but let us keep the secret to ourselves. When m^- 
husband learns how faithful Butscha has been to us, 
how he has shown the warmest and most disinterested 
friendship when others have given us the cold shoulder, 
he will not let jou. alone provide for him, Duma}-. 
And so, my fHend/' she added, turning her blind face 
toward Butscha; ''you can begin at once to negotiate 
with Latoumelle." 

''He's of legal age, twenty-five and a half years. 
As for me, it will be paying a debt, my boy, to make 
the purchase easy for you," said the notary. 

Butscha was kissing Madame Mignon's hand, and 
his face was wet with tears as Modeste opened the 
door of the salon. 

"What are 3'ou doing to my Black Dwarf?" she 
demanded. " Who is making him unhappy?" 

" Ah ! Mademoiselle Modeste, do we luckless fellows, 
cradled in misfortune, ever weep for grief? They have 
Just shown me as much affection as I could feel for 
them if they were indeed my own relations. I 'm to be 
a notary ; I shall be ricJi. Ha ! ha ! the poor Butscha 
may become the rich Butscha. You don't know what 
audacity there is in this abortion," he cried. 

With that he gave himself a resounding blow on the 
cavity of his chest and took up a position before the 
fireplace, after casting a glance at Modeste, which 
slipped like a ray of light between his heavy half- closed 
eyelids. He perceived, in this unexpected incident, a 
chance of interrogating the heart of his sovereign. 
Dumay thought for a moment that, the .clerk dared to 
aspire to Modeste, and he exchanged a rapid glance with 



Modeste Mignon. 141 

the others^ who understood him, and began to eye the 
little man with a species of terror mingled with curiosity. 

*^ I, too, have my dreams," said Butscha, not taking 
his eyes from Modeste. 

The young girl lowered her eyelids with a movement 
that was a revelation to the young man. 

*' You love romance," he continued^ addressing her. 
^^ Let me, in this moment of happiness, tell you mine ; 
and you shall tell me in return whether the conclusion 
of the tale I have invented for my life is possible. /^STo 
me wealth would bring greater happiness than to otfier 
men ; for the highest happiness I can imagine would 
be to enrich the one I loved. You, mademoiselle, who 
know so many things, tell me if it is possible for a man 
to make himself beloved independent ly of his person, 
Be it handsome or ug;ly . aod^for his spiri t only T" ^ 

Modeste raised her eyes and looked at Butscha. It 
was a piercing and questioning glance ; for she shared 
Dumay's suspicion of Butscha's motive. 

^' Let me be rich, and I will seek some beautiful 
poor girl, abandoned like myself, who has suffered, who 
knows what misery is. I will write to her and console 
her, and be her guardian spirit; she shall read my 
heart, my soul; she shall possess my double wealth, 
my two wealths, — my gold, delicately offered, and my 
thought robed in all the splendor which the accident of 
birth has denied to my grotesque body. But I myself 
shall remain hidden like the cause that science seeks. 
God himself may not be glorious to the ej'e. Well, 
naturally, the maiden will be curious ; she will wish to 
see me ; but I shall tell her that I am a monster of 
ugliness ; I shall picture myself hideous." 



142 Modeste Mignon, 

At these words Modeste gave Butscha a glance that 
looked him through and through. If she had said 
aloud, *' What do you know of my love?" she could 
not have been more explicit. 

" If I have the honor of being loved for the poem 
of my heart, if some day such love may make a 
woman think me only slightly deformed, I ask 3'ou, 
mademoiselle, shall I not be -happier than the hand- 
somest of men, — as happy as a man of genius beloved 
hy some celestial being like yourself?" 

The color which suffused the young girl's face told 
the cripple nearly all he sought to know. 

" Well, if that be so," he went on, "if we enrich the 
one we love, if we please the spirit and withdraw the 
body, is not that the way to make one's self beloved ? 
At any rate it is the dream of your poor dwarf, — a 
dream of yesterday ; for to-day your mother gives me 
the key to future wealth by promising me the means 
of buying a practice. But before I become another 
Gobenheim, I seek to know whether this dream could 
be really carried out. What do you saj^ mademoiselle, 
youf' 

Modeste was so astonished that she did not notice 
the question. The trap of the lover was much better 
baited than that of the soldier, for the poor girl was 
rendered speechless. 

" Poor Butscha I " whispered Madame Latournelle 
to her husband. '' Do jou think he is going mad? " 

" You want to realize the story of Beauty and the 
Beast," said Modeste at length ; " but you forget that 
the Beast turned into Prince Charming." 

" Do you think so? " said the dwarf. " Now I have 



Modeste Mignon. 143 

always thought that that transformation meant the 
phenomenon of the soul made visible, obliterating the 
form under the light of the spirit If I were not loved 
I should stay hidden, that is all. You and j^ours, ma- 
dame," he continued, addressing his misti'ess, ^^ in- 
stead of having a dwarf at your service, will now have 
a life and a fortune." 

So saying, Butschi^ resumed his seat, remarking to the 
three whist-players with an assumption of calmness, 
*' Whose deal is it? " but within his soul he whispered 
sadly to himself: " She wants to be loved for herself; 
she corresponds with some pretended great man ; how 
far has it gone?" 

*'*' Dear mamma, it is nearly ten o'clock," said 
Modeste. 

Madame Mignon said good-night to her friends, and 
went to bed. 

They who wish to love in secret may have PjTenean 
hounds, mothers, Dumays, and Latoumelles to spy^ 
upon them, and yet not be in any danger ; but when it 
comes to a lover ! — ah ! that is diamond cut diamond, 
flame against flame, mind to mind, an equation whose 
terms are mutual. 

On Sunday morning Butscha arrived at the Chalet 
before Madame Latournelle, who always came to take 
Modeste to church, and he proceeded to blockade the 
house in expectation of the postman. 

'' Have you a letter for Mademoiselle Mignon? " he 
said to that humble functionary when he appeared. 

" No, monsieur, none." 

^' This house has been a good customer to the post 
of late," remarked the clerk. 



144 . Modeste Mignon. 

'* You may well say that," replied the man. 

Modeste both heard and saw the little colloquy from 
her chamber window, where she always posted herself 
behind the blinds at this particular hour to watch for 
the postman. She ran downstairs, went into the little 
garden, and called in an imperative voice : — 

" Monsieur Butscha ! " 

" Here am I, mademoiselle," said the cripple, reach- 
ing the gate as Modeste herself opened it. 

" Will you be good enough to tell me whether among 
your various titles to a woman's affection you count 
that of the shameless spying in which you are now 
engaged?" demanded the girl, endeavoring to crush 
her slave with the glance and gesture of a queen. 

" Yes, mademoiselle," he answered proudly. " Ah ! 
I never expected," he continued in a low tone, " that 
the grub could be of service to a star, — but so it is. 
Would you rather that your mother and Monsieur Du- 
may and Madame Latournelle had guessed your secret 
than one, excluded as it were from life, who seeks to 
be to you one of these flowers that you cut and wear 
for a moment ? They all know you love ; but I, I 
alone, know how. Use me as 3'ou would a vigilant 
watch-dog; I will obey you, protect you, and never 
bark ; neither will I condemn you. I ask only to be 
of service to you. Your father has made Dumay 
keeper of the hen-roost, take Butscha to watch outside, 
— poor Butscha, who does n^t ask for anything, not so 
much as a bone." 

" Well, I'll give you a trial," said Modeste, whose 
strongest desire was to get rid of so clever a watcher. 
" Please go at once to all the hotels in Graville and in 



Modeste Mignon. 145 

Havre, and ask if a gentleman has arrived from Eng- 
land named Monsieur Artiiur — " 

*' Listen to me, mademoiselle," said Butscha, inter- 
rupting Modeste respectfully. *' I will go and take a 
walk on the seashore, for you don't want me to go 
to church to-day; that's what it is." 

Modeste looked at her dwarf with a perfectly stupid 
astonishment 

** Mademoiselle, you have wrapped your face in 
cotton-wool and a silk handkerchief, but there 's noth- 
ing the matter with you ; and you have put that thick 
veil on your bonnet to see some one yourself without 
being seen." 

'* Where did you acquire all that perspicacity?" 
cried Modeste, blushing. 

*' Moreover, mademoiselle, you have not put on your 
corset ; a cold in the head would n't oblige you to dis- 
figure your waist and wear half a dozen petticoats, nor 
hide your hands in these old gloves, and your pretty 
feet in those hideous shoes, nor dress yourself like a 
beggar-woman, nor — " 

'* That 's enough," she said. *' How am I to be cer- 
tain that you will obey me? " 

** My master is obliged to go to Sainte-Adresse. He 
does not like it, but he is so truly good he won't deprive 
me of my Sunday ; I will offer to go for him." 

'* Go, and I will trust you." 

" You are sure I can do nothing for you in Havre ? 

"Nothing. Hear me, mysterious dwarf, — look," 
she continued, pointing to the cloudless sky ; " can you 
see a single trace of that bird that flew b}- just now? 
No ; well then, my actions are pure as the air is pure, 

10 



146 Modeste Mignon. 

and leave no stain behind them. You may reassure 
Dumay and the Latournelles, and my mother. That 
hand/' she said, holding up a pretty delicate hand, with 
the points of the rosy fingere, through which the light 
shone, slightly turning back, '* will never be given, it 
will never even be kissed by what people call a lover 
until m}- father has returned." 

" Why don't you want me in the church to-day? " 

^^ Do you venture to question me after all I have 
done you the honor to say, and to ask of you?" 

Butscha bowM without another word, and departed 
to find his master, in all the rapture of being taken into 
the service of his goddess. 

Half an hour later. Monsieur and Madame Latour- 
nelle came to fetch Modeste, who complained of a hor- 
rible toothache. 

" I really have not had the courage to dress myself," 
she said. 

" Well then," replied the worthy chaperone, '* stay at 
home." 

" Oh, no ! " said Modeste. " I would rather not. I 
have bundled myself up, and I donH think it will do 
me any harm to go out." 

And Mademoiselle Mignon marched off beside La- 
tournelle, refusing to take his arm lest she should be 
questioned about the outward trembling which betrayed 
her inward agitation at the thought of at last seeing 
her great poet. One look, the first, — was it not about 
to decide her fate? 



M^deite Mi0K(m. 14T 



CHAPTER Xm. 

A FULL-LENGTH PORTRAIT OF MONSIEUR DE LA BRdSES. 

Is there in the life of man a more delightful moment 
than that of a first rendezvons ? Are the sensations 
then hidden at the bottom of our hearts and finding 
their first expression ever renewed ? Can we feel s^ain 
the nameless pleasures that we felt when, like Ernest 
de La Briere, we looked up our sharpest razors, oiir 
finest shirt, an irreproachable collar, and our best 
clothes ? We deif j the garments associated with that 
all-supreme moment. We weave within us poetic fan- 
cies quite equal to those of the woman ; and the day 
when either party guesses them they take wings to 
themselves and fiy away. Are not such things like the 
flower of wild fruits, bitter-sweet, grown in the heart 
of a forest, the joy of the scant sun-rays, the jo3% 
as Canalis says in the "Maiden's Song," of the plant 
itself whose eyes unclosing see its own image within 
its breast? 

Such emotions, now taking place in La Briere» tend 
to show that, like other poor fellows for whom life be- 
gins in toil and care, he had never yet been loved. 
Arriving at Havre overnight, he had gone to bed at 
once, like a true coquette, to obliterate all traces of 
fatigue ; and' now, after taking his bath, he had put 
himself into a costume carefully adapted to show him 



148 Mode%te Mignon. 

off to the best advantage. This is, perhaps, the right 
moment to exhibit a full-length portrait of him, if only 
to justify the last letter that Modeste was still to write 
to him. 

Born of a good family in Tonloose, and allied by 
marriage to the minister who first took him under his 
protection, Ernest had that air of good-breeding which 
comes of an education begun in the cradle; and the 
habit of managing business affairs gave him a certain 
sedateness which was not pedantic, — though pedantry 
is the natural outgrowth of premature gravity. He was 
of ordinary height ; his face, which won upon all who 
saw him by its delicacy and sweetness, was warm in the 
flesh-tints, though without color, and relieved by a small 
moustache and imperial k la Mazarin. Without this 
evidence of virility he might have resembled a j'oung 
woman in disguise, so i^efined was the shape of his face 
and the cut of his lips, so feminine the transparent 
ivory of a set of teeth, regular enough to have seemed 
artificial. Add to these womanly points a habit of 
speech as gentle as the expression of the face; as 
gentle, too, as the blue eyes with their Turkish eye- 
lids, and you will readily understand how it was that 
the minister occasionally called his young secretary 
Mademoiselle de La Briere. The full, clear forehead, 
well framed by abundant black hair, was dreamy, and 
did not contradict the character of the face, which was 
altogether melancholy. The prominent arch of the, 
upper eyelid, though very beautifully cut, overshad- 
owed the glance of the eye, and added a physical sad- 
ness, — if we may so call it, — produced by the droop of 
the lid over the eyeball. This inward doubt or eclipse 



Modeste Mignon. 149 

— which is put into language by the word modesty — 
was expressed in his whole person. Perhaps we shall 
be able to make his appearance better understood if we 
say that the logic of design required greater length in 
the oval of his head, more spac-e between the chin, 
which ended abruptly, and the forehead, which was re- 
duced in height by the way in which the hair grew. 
The face had, in short, a rather compressed appear- 
ance. Hard work had already drawn furrows between 
the eyebrows, which were somewhat too thick and too 
near together, like those of a jealous nature. Though 
La Briere was then slight, he belonged to the class of 
temperaments which begin, after they are thirty, to take 
on an unexpected amount of flesh. 

The young man would have seemed to a student of 
French history a very fair representative of the royal 
and almost inconceivable figure of Louis XIIL, — that 
historical figure of melancholy modesty without known 
cause ; pallid beneath the crown ; loving the dangers of 
war and the fatigues of hunting, but hating work ; timid 
with his mistress to the extent of keeping awaj* from 
her ; so indifferent as to allow the head of his friend to 
be cut off, — a figure that nothing can explain but his 
remorse for having avenged his father on his mother. 
Was he a Catholic Hamlet, or merely the victim of in- 
curable disease? But the undying worm which gnawed 
at the king's vitals was in Ernest's case simply distrust 
of himself, — the timidity of a man to whom no woman 
had ever said, " Ah, how I love thee ! " and, above all, 
the spirit of self-devotion without an object. After 
hearing the knell of the monarchy in the fall of his 
patron's ministry, the poor fellow had next fallen upon 



150 Modeste Mtgnon. 

a rock coyered with exquisite mosses, named Canalis ; 
he was, therefore, still seeking a power to love, and 
this spaniel-like search for a master gave him out- 
wardly the air of a king who has met with his. Tliis 
play of feeling, and a general tone of snffering in the 
young man's face made it mot*e really beautiftd than he 
was himself aware of; ibr he had always been annoyed 
to find himself classed by women among the ^^ handsome 
disconsolate,'' — a class which has passed out of fashion 
in these days, when every man seeks to blow his own 
trumpet and put himself in the advance. 

The self-distrustful Ernest now rested his immediate 
hopes on the fashionable clothes he intended to wear. 
He put on, for this sacred interview, where everything 
depended on a first impression, a pair of black trousers 
and carefully polished boots, a snlphur-Qolored waist- 
coat, which left to sight an exquisitely fine shirt with 
opal buttons, a black cravat, and a small blue surtoat 
coat which seemed glued to his back and shoulders by 
some newly-invented process. I1ie ribbon of the Le- 
gion of honor was in his buttonhole. He wore a well- 
fitting pair of kid gloves of the Florentine bronze color, 
and carried his cane and hat in the left hand with a 
gesture and air that was worthy of the Grand Mon- 
arch, and enabled him to show, as the sacred precincts 
required, his bare head with the light falling on its 
careAilly arranged hair. He stationed himself before 
the service began in the church porch, from whence he 
could examine the church, and the Christians — more 
particularly the female Christians — who dipped their 
fingers in the holy water. 

An inward voice cried to Modeste as she entered, 



Modeste Mignon. 151 

** It is be I " That surtout, and indeed the whole bear- 
ing of the young man were essentially Parisian ; the 
ribbon, the gloves, the cane^ the very perfume of his 
hair were not of Havre. So when La Bri^i'e turned 
about to examine the tall and imposing Madame La- 
tournelle, the notary, and the bundled-up (expression 
sacred to women) figure of Modeste, the poor child, 
though she had carefully tutored herself for the event, re- 
ceived a violent blow on her heart when her e3'es rested 
on this poetic figure, illuminated by the full light of day 
as it streamed through the open door. She could not 
be mistaken ; a small white rose nearly hid the ribbon 
of the L^on. Would he recognize his unknown mis- 
tress muflied in an old bonnet with a double veil? 
Modeste was so in fear of love's clairvoyance that she 
began to stoop in her walk like an old woman. 

''Wife," said little Latournelle as they took their 
seats, " that gentleman does not belong to Havre." 

" So many strangers come here," answered his wife. 

" But," said the notary, " strangers never come to 
look at a church like ours, which is less than two centu- 
ries old." 

Ernest remained in the porch throughout the service 
without seeing any woman who realized his hopes. 
Modeste, on her part, could not control the trembling 
of her limbs until Mass was nearly over. She was in 
the grasp of a joy that none but she herself could de- 
pict. At last she heard the foot-fall of a gentleman on 
the pavement of the aisle. The service over, La Briere 
was making a circuit of the church, where no one now 
remained but the punctiliously pious, whom he proceeded 
to subject to a shrewd and keen analysis. Ernest no^ 



152 Modeste Mignon. 

ticed that a praj'er-book shook violently in the hands 
of a veiled woman as he passed her ; as she alone 
kept her face hidden his suspicions were aroused, and 
then confirmed by Modeste's dress, which the lover's 
eye now scanned and noted. He left the chnrch with 
the Latoumelles and followed .them at a distance to the 
rae Royale, where he saw them enter a hoase accom- 
panied by Modeste, whose cnstom it was to stay with 
her friends till the hoar of vespers. After examining 
the little house, which was ornamented with scutcheons, 
he asked the name of the owner, and was told that he 
was Monsieur Latournelle, the chief notary in Havre. 
As Ernest lounged along the rue Royale hoping for a 
glimpse into the house, Modeste caught sight of him, 
and thereupon declared herself far too ill to go to ves- 
pers. Poor Ernest thus had his trouble for his pains. 
He dared not wander about Ingouville ; moreover, he 
made it a point of honor to obey orders, and he there- 
fore went back to Paris, previously writing a letter 
which Fran9oise Cochet duly received on the morrow 
with the Havre postmark. 

It was the custom of Monsieur and Madame Latour- 
nelle to dine at the Chalet every Sunday when they 
brought back Modeste after vespers. So, as soon as 
the invalid felt a little better, they started for Ingou- 
ville, accompanied by Butscha. Once at home, the 
happy Modeste forgot her pretended illness and her 
disguise, and dressed herself charmingly, humming as 
she came down to dinner, — 

« Nought is sleeping — Heart 1 awaking, 
Lift thine incense to the skies." 



Modeste Mignon. 153 

Botscha shuddered slightly when he caught sight of 
her, so changed did she seem to him. The wings of 
love were fastened to her shoulders; she had the air 
of a nymph, a Psyche; her cheeks glowed with the 
divine color of happiness. 

'* Who wrote the words to which you have put that 
pretty music? " asked her mother. 

^^ Canalis, mamma," she answered, flushing rosy red 
from her throat to her forehead. 

" Canalis ! " cried the dwarf, to whom the inflections 
of the girl's voice and her blush told the only thing of 
which he was still ignorant. ^' He, that great poet, 
does he write songs? '' 

" They are only simple verses," she said, " which I 
have ventured to set to German airs." 

'^ No^ no," interrupted Madame Mignon, 'Hhe music 
is your own, my daughter." 

Modeste, feeling that she grew more and more crim- 
son, went off into the garden, calling Butscha after her. 

'' You can do me a great service," she said. " Du- 
may is keeping a secret from my mother and me as to 
the fortune which my father is bringing back with him ; 
and I want to know what it is. Did not Dumay send 
papa when he first went away over fiwe hundred thou- 
sand francs? Yes. WelU papa is not the kind of man 
to stay away four years and only double his capital. It 
seems he is coming back on a ship of his own, and 
Dumay's share amounts to almost six hundred thousand 
francs." 

" There 's no need to question Dumay," said 
Butscha. " Your father lost, as you know, about four 
millions when he went away, and he has doubtless 



154 Modeste Mignon. 

recovered them. He would of course give Dumay ten 

per cent of his profits ; the worthy man admitted the 

other day how much it was, and my master and I think 

that in that case the colonel's fortune must amount to 

si^ or seven millions — " 

"^ ) / " ^^» papa!" cried Modeste, crossing her hands on 

/ her breast and looking up to heaven, " twice vou have 

^ piven_me life ! '* 

"Ah, mademoiselle!** said Butscha, "you love a 
poet. That kind of man is more or less of a Narcissus. 
Will he know how to love you? A phrase-maker, al- 
ways busy in fitting words together, must be a bore. 
Mademoiselle, a poet is no more poetry than a seed Is 
a flower.'* 

" Butscha, I never saw so handsome a man.** 

" Beauty is a veil which often serves to hide 
imperfections." 

" He has the most angelic heart of heaven — " 

" I pray God j'^ou may be right," said the dwarf, clasp- 
ing his hands, " — and happy ! That man shall have, 
as you have, a servant in Jean Butscha. I will not be 
notary ; I shall give that up ; I shall study the sciences." 

"Why?" 

"Ah, mademoiselle, to train up your children, if 
you will deign to make me their tutor. But, oh! if 
you would only listen to some advice. Let me take 
up this matter ; let me look into the life and habits of 
this man, — find out if he is kind, or bad-tempered, or 
gentle, if he commands the respect which you merit in 
a husband, if he is able to love utterly, preferring you 
to everything, even his own talent — " 

" What does that signify if I love him ? " 



Modeste Mignon. 155 

** Ah, true ! " cried the dwarf. 

At that instant Madame Mignon was sa3ning to her 
friends, — 

^^ My daaghter saw the man she loves this morning." 

^^ Then it must have been that sulphur waistcoat 
which puzzled you so, Latoumelle," said his wife. 
^^The young man had a pretty white rose in his 
buttonhole.'* 

''Ah I " sighed the mother, "the sign of recognition.'* 

" And he also wore the ribbon of an oflScer of the 
Legion of honor. He is a charming young man. But 
we are all deceiving ourselves ; Modeste never raised 
her veil, and her clothes were huddled on like a beg- 
gar-woman's — " 

" And she said she was ill," cried the notar^^ ; '' but 
she has taken off her mufflings and is just as well as 
she ever was. " 

" It is incomprehensible ! " said Dumay. 

" Not at all," said the notary ; " it is now as dear 
as daj'." 

" My child," said Madame Mignon to Modeste, as 
she came into the room, followed b3' Butscha, " did j'ou 
see a well-dressed young man at church this morning, 
with a white rose in his button-hole? " 

" I saw him," said Butscha quickly, perceiving by 
everybody's strained attention that Modeste was likely 
to fall into a trap. '' It was Grindot, the famous ar- 
chitect, with whom the town is in treaty for the resto- 
ration of the church. He has just come from Paris, 
and I met him this' morning examining the exterior as 
I was on my way to Sainte-Adresse." 

"Oh, an architect, was he? he puzzled me," said 



166 Modeste Mignon. 

Modeste, for whom Batscha had thus gained time to 
recover herself. 

Dumay looked askance at Butscha. Modeste, fully 
warned, recovered her impenetrable composure. Du- 
may's distrust was now thoroughly aroused, and he 
resolved to go to the mayor's office early in the moin- 
ing and asceitain if the architect had really been in 
Havre the previous day. Butscha, on the other hand, 
was equally determined to go to Paris and find out 
something about Canalis. 

Gobenheim came to play whist, and by his presence 
subdued and compressed all this fermentation of feel- 
ings. Modeste awaited her mother's bedtime with im- 
patience. She intended to write, but never did so 
except at night. Here is the letter which love dictated 
I to her while all the world was sleeping : — 

To Monsieur de Canalis, — Ah ! my friend, my 
well-beloved ! What atrocious falsehoods those por- 
traits in the shop-windows ai*e! And I, who made 
that horrible lithograph my joy ! — I am humbled 
at the thought of loving one so handsome. No ; it is 
impossible that those Parisian women are so stupid as 
not to have seen their dreams fulfilled in you. You 
neglected ! you unloved ! I do not believe a word of 
all that you have written me about your lonely and 
obscure life, your hunger for an idol, — sought in vain 
until now. You have been too well loved, monsieur ; 
your brow, white and smooth as a magnolia leaf, re- 
veals it ; and it is I who must be neglected, — for who 
am I? Ah! why have 3'ou called me to life? I felt 
for a moment as thougli the heavy burden of the flesh 



ModeBte Mignon. 157 

was leaving me ; my soul had broken tlie er>*stal which 
held it captive; it pervaded my whole being; the 
cold silence of material things had ceased ; all things 
in nature had a voice and spoke to me. The old 
church was luminous. Its arched roof, brilliant with 
gold and azure like those of an Italian cathedral, 
sparkled above my head. Melodies such as the angels 
sang to martyrs, quieting their pains, sounded from 
the organ. The rough pavements of Havre seemed* 
to my feet a flowery mead ; the sea spoke to me with 
a voice of sympathy, like an old friend whom I had 
never ti'uly understood. I saw clearly how the roses in 
my garden had long adored me and bidden me love ; 
they lifted their heads and smiled as I came back from 
church. I heard your name, ** Melchior," chiming in the 
flower-bells ; I saw it written on the clouds. Yes, yes, 
I live, I am living, thanks to thee, — my poet, more 
beautiful than that cold, conventional Lord Byron, 
with a face as dull as the English climate. One glance 
of thine, thine Orient glance, pierced through my 
double veil and sent th}" blood to my heart, and from 
thence to my head and feet. Ah ! that is not the life 
our mother gave us. A hurt to thee would hurt me 
too at the very instant it was given, — my life exists 
by thy thought only. I know now the^ purpose of the 
divine faculty of music ; the angels invented it to utter 
love. Ah, my Melchior, to have genius and to have 
beauty is too much ; a man should be made to choose 
between them at his birth. 

When I think of the treasures of tenderness and 
affection which you have given me, and more especially 
for the last month, I ask myself if I dream. !No, but 



168 Modeste Mignan. 

yon hide some mystery ; what woman can yield yon up 
to me and not die? Ah ! jealoasy has entered m}' heart 
with love, — love in which I could not have believed. 
How could I have imagined so mighty a conflagration ? 
And now — strange and inconceivable revulsion! — I 
would rather you were ugly. 

What follies I committed after I came home ! The 
yellow dahlias reminded me of your waistcoat, the 
white roses were my loving friends ; I bowed to them 
with a look that belonged to you, like all that is of me. 
The very color of tlie gloves, moulded to hands of a 
gentleman, your step along the nave, — all, all, is so 
printed on my memory that sixty years hence I shall 
see the veriest trifles of this day of daj^s, — the color of 
the atmosphere, the ray of sunshine that flickered on a 
certain pillar ; I shall hear the prayer your step inter- 
rupted ; I shall inhale the incense of the altar ; forever 
I shall feel above our heads the priestly hands that 
blessed us both as you passed by me at the closing 
benediction. The good Abb^ Marcelin married us 
then! The happiness, above that of earth, which I 
feel in this new world of unexpected emotions can only 
be equalled by the joy of telling it to you, of sending 
it back to him who poured it into my heart with the 
lavishness of the sun itself. No more veils, no more 
disguises, my beloved. Come back to me, oh, come 
back soon. With joy I now unmask. 

You have no doubt heard of the house of Mignon in 
Havre? Well, I am, through an irreparable misfortune, 
its sole heiress. But 3'ou are not to look down upon 
us, descendant of xin Auvergne knight; the arms 
of.the Miirnon do La Bastie will do no dishonor to 



Modeste Migrwn. 169 

those of Canalis. We bear gules, on a bend sable 
four bezants or ; quarterly four crosses patriarchal or : 
a cardinal's hat as crest, and the fiocchi for supports. 
Dear, I will be faithful to our motto : Una fideSy unu9 
Bominus ! — the true faith, and one only Master. 

Perhaps, my friend, you will find some irony in my 
name, after all that I have done, and all that I herein 
avow. I am named Modeste. Therefore I have not 
deceived you by signing "O. d*Este M." Neither have I 
misled you about our fortune ; it will amount, I believe ,j 
to the sum which rendered you so virtuous. I knowi 
that to you money is a consideration of small impor-V 
tance ; therefore I speak of it without reserve. Let me 
tell you how happy it makes me to give freedom of 
action to our happiness, — to be able to say, when 
the fancy for travel takes us, ^^ Come, let us go in 
a comfortable carriage, sitting side by side, without al 
thought of money " — happy, in short, to tell the king, ^ 
" I have the fortune which you require in your peers." 
Thus Modeste Mignon can be of service to you, and 
her gold will have the noblest of uses. 

As to your servant herself, — you did see her 
once, at her window. Yes, " the fairest daughter of 
Eve the fair " was indeed your unknown damozel ; but 
bow little the Modeste of to-day resembles her of that 
long past era ! That one was in her shroud, this one — 
have I made you know it? — has received from you the 
life of life. Love, pure, and sanctioned, the love my 
tatger, now returning rich an d prosperous, will author- 
ize, has msed me with its powerful yet childlike hand 
from the grave in which I slept. You have wakened 
me as the sun wakens the flowers. The eyes of your 



160 ilodeste Mignon, 

beloved are no longer those of the little Modeste so 
daring in her ignorance, — no, they are dimmed with 
the sight of happiness, and the lids close over them. 
To-day I tremble lest I can never deserve my fate. 
The king has come in his glory; my lord has now a 
subject who asks pardon for the liberties she has taken, 
like the gambler with loaded dice after cheating Mon- 
sieur de Grammont. 

My cherished poet! I will be thy Mignon — happier 
far than the Mignon of Goethe, for thou wilt leave me 
in mine own land, — in thy heart. Just as I write this 
pledge of our betrothal a nightingale in the Vilqnin 
park answers for thee. Ah, tell me quick that his note, 
so pure, so clear, so full, which fills my heart with joy 
and love like an Annunciation, does not lie to me. 

My father will pass through Paris on his way from 
Marseilles ; the house of Mongenod, with whom he cor- 
responds, will know his address. Go to him, my Mel- 
chior, tell him that you love me ; but do not try to tell 
him how I love you, — let that be forever between our- 
selves and God. I, my dear one, am about to tell 
everything to my mother. Her heart will justify mj' 
conduct ; she will rejoice in our secret poem, so roman- 
tic, human and divine in one. 

You have the confession of the daughter ; yo>\i pinst 
now obtain the consent of the Comte de La Bastie, 
father of your 

Modeste. 

P. S. — Above all, do not come to Havre without 
having first obtained mj' father's conaenL- JX-^u love 
me you will not fail to find him on his way through 
Paris. ' 



Mode9te Mignon. 161 

** What are you doing, up at this hour, Mademoiselle 
Modeste ? " said the voice of Dumay at her door. 

'* Writing to my father," she answered; "did you 
not tell me you should start in the morning?" 

Dumay had nothing to say to that, and he went to 
bed, while Modeste wrote another long letter, this time 
to her father. 

On the morrow, Fran9oise Cochet, terrified at seeing 
the Havre postmark on the envelope which Eniest had 
mailed the night before, brought her young mistress the 
following letter and took away the one which Modeste 
had written: — 

To Mademoiselle O. d'Este M., — My heart tells 
me that you were the woman so carefully veiled and 
disguised, and seated between Monsieur and Madame 
Latoumelle, who have but one child, a son. Ah, my 
love, if you have only a modest station, without dis- 
tinction, without importance, without money even, you 
do not know how happy that would make me. You 
ought to understand me by this time ; why will you 
not tell me the truth? I am no poet, — except in 
heart, through love, through you. Oh! jv^hat power 
of affection there is in me to keep me here in this hotel, 
instead of mounting to Ingouville which I can see from 
my windows. Will you ever love me as I love jou? 
To leave Havre in such uncertainty ! Am I not punished * 
for loving you as if I had committed a crime ? But I 
obey 3'ou blindly. Let me have a letter quickly, for if you 
have been mysterious, I have returned you mystery for 
mysterj', and I must at last throw off my disguise, show 
3'ou the poet that I am, and abdicate my borrowed glor}-. 

11 



162 



Modeste Mignon. 



This letter made Modeste terrib]j.jttiieasy'- She 
could not get back the one j h^ch Fran^oise had car- 
ried^away before she came to the last words, whose 
meaning she now sought by reading them again and 
again; but she went to her own room and wrote 
an answer in which she demanded an immediate 
explanation. 



ModeBte Mignon. 163 



CHAPTER XIV. 

MATTERS GROW COMPLICATED. 

During these little events other little events were 
going on in Havre, which caused Modeste to forget her 
present uneasiness. Dumay went down to Havre early 
in the morning, and soon discovered that no architect 
had been in town the day before. Furious at Butscha's 
lie, which revealed a conspiracy of which he was re- 
solved to know the meaning, he rushed from the mayor's 
office to his friend Latournelle. 

"Where's your Master Butscha?'* he demanded of 
the notary, when he saw that the clerk was not in his 
place. 

"Butscha, my dear fellow, has gone to Paris. He 
heard some news of his father this morning on the 
qna3'^s, from a Swedish sailor. It seems the father 
went to the Indies and served a prince, or something, 
and he is now in Paris." 

"Lies! it's all a trick! infamous! I'll find that 
damned cripple if I 've got to go express to Paris for 
him," cried Dumay. "Butscha is deceiving us; he 
knows something about Modeste, and hasn't told us. 
If he meddles in this thing he shall never be a notary. 
I '11 roll him in the mud from which he came, I '11 — " 

" Come, come, my friend ; never hang a man before 
you try him," said Latournelle, frightened at Dumay's 
rage. 



164 Modeste Mignon» 

After stating the facts on which his suspicions were 
founded, Dumay begged Madame Latournelle to go and 
stay at the Chalet during his absence. 

" You will find the colonel in Paris," said the notary. 
^'In the shipping news quoted this morning in the 
Journal of Conunerce, I found under the. head of Mar- 
seilles — here, see for yourself/' he said, offering the 
paper. ^^ ' The Bettina Mignon, CaptaLn Mignon, ar- 
rived October 6 ; Mt is now the 17th, and tiie colonel 
is sure to be in Paris." 

Dumay requested Gobenheim to do without him in 
future, and then went back to the Chalet, which he 
reached just as Modeste was sealing her two letters, to 
her father and Canalis. Except for the address the 
letters were precisely alike both in weight and appear- 
ance. Modeste thoaght she had laid that to her father 
over that to her Melchior, but had, in fact, done ex- 
actly the reverse. Jhis mistake, so often made in the 
little things of life, occasioned the discovery of her se- 
cret By 'Dumay' and her mother^"Tte lormer was talk- 
ing vehemently to Madame Mignon in the salon, and 
revealing to her his ^esh fears caused by Modeste's 
duplicity and Butscha's connivance. 

''Madame," he cried, "he is a serpent whom we 
have warmed in our bosoms ; there 's no plaOQ in his 
contorted little body for a soul!" 

Modeste put the letter for her father into the pocket 
of her apron, supposing it to be that for Canalis, and 
came downstairs with the letter for her lover in her 
hand, to see Dumay before he started for Paris. 

"What has happened to my Black Dwarf? why are 
you talking so loud I " she said, appearing at the door. 



Modeste Mignon. 165 

^^Mademoiselle, Butscha has gone to Paris, and 
you, no doubt, know wh}^ — to carry on that affair of 
the little architect with the sulphur waistcoat, who, un- 
luckily for the hunchback's lies, has never been here." 

Modeste Was struck dumb; feeling sure that the 
dwarf had departed on a mission of inquiry as to her 
poet's morals, she turned pale, and sat down. 

*^ I'm going after hifn ; I shall find him," continued 
Dumay. ^' Is that the letter for your father, made- 
moiselle?" he added, holding out his hand. "I will 
take it to the Mongenods. God grant the colonel and 
I may not pass each other on t^e road." 

Modeste gave him the letter. Dumay looked me- 
chanically at the address. 

*' ' Monsieur le Baron de Canalis, rue de Paradis- 
Poissonni^re, No. 29 M" he cried out; "what does 
that mean?" 

*'Ah, my daughter! that is the man you love," 
exclaimed Madame Mignon; " Hie stanzas you set to 
music were his — " 

"And that's his portrait that you have in a frame 
upstairs,*' added Dumay. 

" Give me back that letter, Monsieur Dumay," said 
Modeste, erecting hersell* like a lioness defending her 
cubs. 

" There it is, mademoiselle," he i*eplied. 

Modeste put it into the bosom of her dress, and gave 
Dumay the one intended for her father. 

"I know what you are capable of, Dumay," she 
said; "and if you take one step against Monsieur 
de Canalis, I shall take another out of this house, to 
which I will never return." 



166 Modeste Mignon. 

**Toa will kill yonr mother, mademoiselle,'^ replied 
Damay, who left the room and called his wife. 

The poor mother was indeed half-fainting, — struck to 
the heart by Modeste's words. 

*' Good-by, wife," said the Breton, kissing the 
American. ^^ Take care of the mother ; I go to save 
the daughter." 

He made his preparations foif the journey in a few 
minutes, and started for Havre. An hour later he was 
travelling post to Paris, with the haste that nothing 
but passion or speculation can get out of wheels. 

Recovering herself under Modeste's tender care, 
Madame Mignon went up to her bedroom leaning on 
the arm of her daughter, to whom she said, as her sole 
reproach, when they were alone : — 

'*My unfortunate child, see what you have done! 
Why did you conceal anything from me? Am I so 
harah?" 

" Oh ! I was just going to tell it to you comfortably," 
sobbed Modeste. 

She thereupon related everything to her mother, read 
her the letters and their answers, and shed the rose of 
her poem petal by petal into the heart of the kind Ger- 
man woman. When this confidence, which took half 
the day, was over, when she saw something that was 
almost a smile on the lips of the too indulgent mother, 
Modeste fell upon her breast in tears. 

"Oh, mother I" she said amid her sobs, **you, 
whose heart, all gold and poetry, is a chosen vessel, 
chosen of God to hold a sacred love, a single and celes- 
4ia,1 love that endures for life; you, whom I wish to 
inutatc by loving no one but m}' husband, — you will 



Modeste Mignon. 167 

snrely understand what bitter tears I am now shedding. 
This butterfly, this Psyche of my thoughts, this dual 
soul which I have niu*tured with maternal care, my love, 
my sacred love, this living mystery of mysteries — it 
is about to fall into vulgar hands, and they will tear its 
diaphanous wings and rend its veil under the miserable 
pretext of enlightening me, of discovering whether 
genius is as prudent as a banker, whether my Melchior 
has saved his money, or whether he has some entangle- 
ment to shake off ; they want to find out if he is guilty 
to bourgeoia eyes of youthful indiscretions, — which 
to the sun of our love arc like tiie (douds of the dawn. 
Ohl wharwlil come of it? what will they do? See! 
feel my hand, it bums with fever. Ah I I shall never 
survive it.'' 

And Modeste, really taken with a chill, was forced 
to go to bed, causing serioos uneasiness to her mother, 
Madame Latournclle, and Madame Dumay, who took 
good care of her during the journey of the lieutenant 
to Paris, — to which city the logic of events compels 
us to transport our drama for a moment. 

Truly modest minds, like that of £rnest de La Briere, 
but especially those who, knowing th^^^m^alue, also 
know that they are neither loved "^^^vHttpted, can 
understand the infinite joy to which th^^raig^ secre- 
tary abandoned himself on reading Modiste's letter. 
Could it be that after thinking him lofty and witty in 
69(4, Y^^ y<^ung, his artless, his tricksome mistress now 
t^oijeht him handsome? This flattery is the flattery 
< e^rdtie. And why? Beauty is, undoubtedly, the sig- 
nuttire of the master to the work into which he has put 
\m ^QWPft is the divine spirit manifested. And to see 






o- 



168 Modeste Mignofu 

it where it is not, to create it by the power of an inward 
look, — is not that the highest reach of love? And so 
the poor yoath cried alood with all the rapture of an 
applauded author, "At last I am beloved ! " When a 
woman, be she maid, wife, or widow, lets the charming 
words escape her, "Thoa art handsome," the words 
may be false, but the man opens his thick skull to their 
subtle poison, and thenceforth he is attached by an 
everlasting tie to the pretty flatterer, the true or the 
deceived judge ; she becomes his particular world, he 
thursts for her continual testimony, and he never wea- 
ries of it, even if he is a crowned prince. Ernest 
walked proudly up and down his room; he struck a 
three-quarter, full-face, and profile attitude before the 
glass ; he tried to criticise himself; but a voice, diabol- 
ically persuasive, whispered to him, " Modeste is right/' 
He took up her letter and re-read it ; he saw his fairest 
of the fair ; he talked with her ; then, in the midst of 
his ecstacy, a dreadful thought came to him : — 

" She thinks me CanaUs, and she has a million of 
money I " 

Down went his happiness, just as a somnambu- 
list, having attained the peak of a roof, hears a voice, 
awakes, and falls crushed upon the pavement. 

^^ Without the halo of fame I shall be hideous in her 
eyes," he cried ; " what a maddening situation I have 
put myself in I " 

La Briere was too much the man of his letters 
which we have read, his heart was too jiohlg^and gjira^ 
to allow him-toJi^sitate at tbe....gallof_honor. He at 
once resolved to find Modeste's father, if he were in 
Paris, and confess all to him, and to let Canalis know 



Modeste Mignon, 169 

the serious fesults of their Parisiati jest. To a sen- 
sitive natare like his, Modeste's large fortune was in 
itself a determining reason. He could not allow it to 
be even suspected that the ^rH^r ^f the ^^ftflp(>y?4^"^^^ 
so sincere on his part, had in view the capture of a dot. 
Tears were in his ejes as he made his way to the rue 
Chantereine to find the banker Mongenod, whose for- 
tune and business connections were partly the work of 
the minister to whom Ernest owed his start in life. 

At the hour when La Briere was inquiring about the 
father of his beloved from the head of the house of 
Mongenod, and getting information that might be use- 
ful to him in his strange position, a scene was tak- 
ing place in Canalis's study which the ex-lieutenant's 
hasty departure from Havre may have led tibe reader 
to foresee. 

Like a true soldier of the imperial schopl, Dumay, 
whose Breton blood had boiled all the way to Paris, 
considered a poet to be a poor stick of a fellow, of no 
consequence whatever, — a buffoon addicted to choruses, 
living in a garret, dressed in black clothes that were 
white at every seam, wearing boots that were occasion- 
ally without soles, and linen that was unmentionable, 
and whose fipgers knew more about ink than soap ; in 
short, one who looked always as if he had tumbled 
from the moon, except when scribbling at a desk, like 
Butscha. But the seething of the Breton's heart and 
brain received a violent application of cold water when 
he entered the courtyard of the pretty house occupied 
by the poet and saw a groom washing a carriage, and 
also, through the windows of a handsome dining-room, 
a valet dressed like a banker, to whom the groom re- 



170 Modeite Mignon. 

ferred him, and who answered, looking the stranger 
over from head to foot, that Monsieur le baron was not 
visible. "There is," added the man, ''a meeting of 
the council of state to-day, at which Monsieur le baron 
is obliged to be present." 

" Is this really the house of Monsieur Canalis," said 
Dumay, '' a writer of poetry ? " 

"Monsieur le baron de Canalis," replied the valet, 
" is the great poet of whom you speak ; but he is also 
the president of the court of Claims attached to the 
ministry of foreign affairs." 

Dumay, who had come to box the ears of a scribbling 
nobody, found himself confronted by a high functionary 
of the state. The salon where he was told to wait 
offered, as a topic for his meditations, the insignia of 
the Legion of honor glittering on a black coat which 
the valet had left upon a chair. Presently his eyes 
were attracted by the beauty and brilliancj' of a silver- 
gilt cup bearing the words " Given by Madame." 
Then he beheld before him, on a pedestal, a Sevres 
vase on which was engraved, " The gift of Madame la 
Dauphinb." 

These mute admonitions brought Dumaj' to his senses 
while the valet went to ask his master if he would re- 
ceive a person who had come from Havre expressly to 
see him, — a stranger named Dumay. 

" What sort of a man ? " asked Canalis. 

" He is well-dressed, and wears the ribbon of the 
Legion of honor." 

Canalis made a sign of assent, and the valet re- 
treated, and then returned and announced, "Monsieur 
Dumav." 



Mode8te Mignon, 171 

When he heard himself announced, when he was ac- 
tually in presence of Canalis, in a study as gorgeous as 
it was elegant, with his feet on a carpet far handsomer 
than any in the house of Mignon, and when he met the 
studied glance of the poet who was playing with the 
tassels of a sumptuous dressing-gown, Dumay was so 
completely taken aback that he allowed the great poet 
to have the first word. 

" To what do I owe the honor of your visit, monsieur?" 

^^ Monsieur," began Dumay, who remained standing. 

" If you have a good deal to say," interrupted Cana- 
lis, ^^ I must ask you to be seated." 

And Canalis himself plunged into an armchair k la 
Voltaire, crossed his legs, raised the upper one to the 
level of his eye and looked fixedly at Dumay, who be- 
came, to use his own martial slang, '^ bayonetted." 

*^ I am listening, monsieur," said the poet ; '' my time 
is precious, — the ministers are expecting me." 

"Monsieur," said Dumay, "I shall be brief. You 
have seduced — how, I do not know — a young lady in 
Havre, young, beautiful, and rich; the last and only 
hope of two noble families ; and I have come to ask 
your intentions." 

Canftlis, who had been busy during the last three 
months with serious matters of his own, and was trying 
to get himself made commander of the Legion of honor 
and minister to a German court, had completely for- 
gotten Modeste's letter. 

*' I ! " he exclaimed. 

*' You ! " repeated Dumay. 

"Monsieur," answered Canalis, smiling; *' I know 
no more of what 3'ou are talking about^au 11* yeu»4i^ 

^^^^ -^^^^ 

J. or Tf-T ' r \ 



172 Mode9te JUignan. 

said it in Hebrew. I sednoe a yonng gitl! I, Who 
— " and a superb smile crossed his features. " Come, 
come, monsieur, I 'm not such a chUd as to steal fruit 
over the hedges when I have orchards and gardens of 
my own where the finest peaches ripen. All Paris 
knows where my affections are set. Very likely there 
may be some young girl in Havre full of enthusiasm for 
my verses, — of which they are not worthy ; that would 
not surprise me at all ; nothing is more common. See ! 
look at that lovely coffer of ebony inlaid with noother- 
of-pearl, and edged with that iron-work as fine as lace. 
That coffer belonged to Pope Leo X., and was given to 
me by the Dnchesse de Chaulieu, who received it from 
the king of Spain. I use it to hold the letters I receive 
from ladies and young girls living in every quarter of 
Europe. Oh! I assure you I feel the utmost respect 
for these flowers of the soul, cut and sent in mo- 
ments of enthusiasm that are woi*thy of all reverence. 
Yes, to me the impulse of a heaft is a noble and sub- 
lime thing ! Others — scoffers — light their cigars with 
such letters, or give them to their wives for curl-papers ; 
but I, who am a bachelor, monsieur, I have too much 
delicacy not to preserve these artless offering s — so 
fresh, so disinterested — in a taliertiacle^f their own. 
In fact, I guard them with a species of veneration, and 
at my death they will be burned before my eyes. 
People may call that ridiculous, but I do not care. I 
am grateful; these proofs of devotion enable me to 
bear the criticisms and annoyances of a literary life. 
When I receive a shot in the back from some enemy 
lurking under cover of a daily paper, I look at that 
casket and Uiink, — here and there in this wide world 



ModeBte Mignon. 173 

there are hearts whose wounds have been healed, or 
soothed, or dressed by me!" 

This bit of poetry, declaimed with all the talent of a 
great actor, petnfied the lieutenant, whose eyes opened 
to their utmost extent, and whose astonishment de- 
lighted the poet. 

*' I will permit you," continued the peacock, spread- 
ing his tail, '^ out of respect for your position, which I 
fully appreciate, to open fiiat coffer and look for the 
letter of your young lady. Tliough I know I am right, 
I remember names, and I assure you you are mistaken 
in thinking — '* 

^^ And this is what a poor child comes to in this gulf 
of Paris ! '* cried Dumay, — "the darling of her parents, / 
the joy of her friends, the hope of all, petted by all, the 
pride of a family, who has six persons so devoted to 
her that they would willingly make a rampart of their I 
lives and fortunes between her and sorrow. Mon- j 
sieur," Dumay resumed after a pause, " you are a great 
poet, and I am onl}' a poor soldier. For fifteen years I 
served pay country in the ranks ; I have had the wind 
of many a bullet in my face ; I have crossed Siberia 
and been a prisoner there ; the Russians flung me on a 
kibitka, and God knows what I suffered; I have seen 
thousands of my comrades die, — but you, you have 
given me a chill to the marrow of my bones, such as I 
never felt before." 

Duma}' fancied that his words moved the poet, but in 
fact they only flattered him, — a thing which at this 
period of his life had become almost an impossibility ; 
for his ambitious mind had long forgotten the first per- 
fumed phial that praise had broken over his head. 



174 Modeste Mignon. 

" Ah, my soldier ! " he said solemnly, laying his 
hand on Dumay's shoulder, and thinking to himself 
how droll it was to make a soldier of the empire trem- 
ble, " this young girl may be all in all to you, but to 
society at large what is she ? nothing. At this moment 
the greatest mandarin in China may be yielding up the 
ghost and putting half the universe in mourning, and 
what is that to you? The English are killing thou- 
sands of people in India more worthy than we are; 
why, at this very moment while I am speaking to you 
some ravishing woman is being burned alive, — did 
that make you care less for your cup q{ coffee this 
morning at breakfast ? Not a day passes in Paris 
that some mother in rags does not cast her infant on 
the world to be picked up by whoever finds it; and 
yet see! here is this delidouf tea in a cup that cost 
five louis, and I write verses which Parisian women 
rush to buy, exclaiming, ^ Divine I delicious ! charm- 
ing! food for the soul I' Social nature, like Nature 
herself, is a great forgetter. You will be quite surprised 
ten years hence at what you have done to-day. You 
are here in a city where people die, where they marry, 
where they adore each other at an assignation, where 
young girls suffocate themselves, where the man of 
genius with his cargo of thoughts teeming with humane 
beneficence goes to the bottom, — all side by side, 
sometimes under the same roof, and yet ignorant of 
each other, ignorant and indifferent. And here yon 
come among us and ask us to expire with grief at this 
commonplace affair." 

'* X2SLP*^^ ygVI^f^^ ^ PO^^^'* < ^ed D uma}", " but 
don't you feel what you write?" 



Modeste Mignon. 175 

** Good heavens ! if we endured the joys or the 
woes we sing we should be as worn out in three months 
as a pair of old boots," said the poet, smiling. *' But 
stay, you shall not come from Havre to Paris to see 
Canalis without carrying something back with you. 
Warrior! [Canalis had the form and action of an 
Homeric hero] learn this from the poet: Every no- 
ble sentiment in man is a poem so exclusively indi- 
vidual that his nearest friend, his other self, cares 
nothing for it. It is a treasure which is his alone, 
it is — " 

** Excuse me for interrupting you," said Dumay, 
who was gazing at the poet with horror, " but did you 
ever come to Havre ? " 

^^ I was there for a day and a night in the spring of 
1824 on my way to London." 

*' You are a man of honor," continued Dumay ; "will 
you give me your word that you do not know Made- 
moiselle. Modeste Mignon? " 

^'This is the first time that name ever struck my 
ear," replied Canalis. 

*'Ah, monsieur!" said Dumay, *'into what dark 
intrigue am I about to plunge? Can I count upon yon 
to help me in my inquiries ? — for I am certain that some 
one has been using 3'our name. You ought to have 
had a letter yesterday from Havre." 

" I received none. Be sure, monsieur, that I will 
help you,'^ said Canalis, " so far as I have the oppor- 
tunity of doing so." I 

Dumay withdrew, his heart torn with anxiety, be- 
lieving that the wretched Butscha had worn the skin of 
the poet to deceive Modeste ; whereas Butscha himself, 



17^ Modeste Miffnon. 

keen-witted as a prince seeking revenge, and far 
cleverer than any paid spy, was ferretting out the life 
and actions of Canalis, escaping notice by his insig- 
nificance, like an insect that bores its way into the sap 
of a tree. 

The Breton had scarcely left the poet's house when 
La Briere entered his friend's study. Naturally, Canalis 
told him of the visit of the man from Havi*e. 

^^ Ha ! " said Ernest, ^^ Modeste Mignon ; that is just 
what I have come to speak of." 

"Ah, bah ! " cried Canalis ; " have I had a triumph 
by proxy?" 

" Yes ; and here is the key to it. My Mend, I am 
loved by the sweetest girl in all the world, — beautiful 
enough to shine beside the greatest beauties in Paris, 
with a heart and mind worthy of Clarissa. She has 
seen me; I have pleased her, and she thinks^ me the 
great Ca nalis., But that is not all. ModesteMignon 
is of high^birth, and Mongenod has just told me that 
her father, the Comte de La Bastie, has something 
like six millions. The father is here now, and I have 
asked him through Mongenod for an interview at two 
o'clock. Mongenod is to give him a hint, just a 
word, that it concerns the happiness of his daughter. 
But you will readily understand that before seeing 
the father I feel I ought to make a clean breast of 
it to you." 

" Among the plants whose flowers bloom in the sun- 
shine of fame," said Canalis, impressively, " there is 
one, and the most magnificent, which bears like the 
orange-tree a golden fruit amid the mingled perfumes 
of beauty and of mind ; a lovely plant, a true tender- 



ModesU SKffnon. 17T 

ness, a perfect bliss, and — it eludes me." Canalis 
looked at the carpet that Ernest might not read his 
e3'es. ^^ Coald I," he continued afber a pause to regain 
his self-possession, '^ how could I have divined that 
flower from a prett}' sheet of perfumed paper, that true 
heart, that 3*oung girl, that woman in whom love wears 
the livery of flatter^', who loves us for ourselves, who 
offers us felicity? It needed an angel or a demon to 
perceive her ; and what am I but the ambitious head of 
a Court of Claims I Ah, my friend, fame makes us the 
target of a thousand anx)ws. One of us owes his rich 
marriage to an hydraulic piece of poetry, while I, more 
seductive, more a woman's man than he, have missed 
mine, — for, do you love her, poor girl? " he said, look- 
ing up at La Briere. 

'* Oh ! " ejaculated the young man. 

*'Well then," said the poet, taking his secretary's 
arm and leaning heavil}' upon it, ''be happj', Ernest. 
By a mere accident I have been not ungrateful to you. 
You are richly rewarded for your devotion, and I will 
generously further your happiness." 

Canalis was furious ; but he could not behave other- 
wise than with proprietj', and he made the best of his 
disappointment by mounting it as a pedestal. 

"Ah, Canalis, I have never really known you till 
this moment." 

''Did you expect to? It takes some time to go 
round the world," replied the poet with his pompous 
irony. 

"But think," said La Briere, "of this enormous 
fortone." 

" Ah, nay_Jkifind,. js it not well invested 4a you?" 
12 



178 Modeste Mignon. 

cried Canalis, accompanying the words with a charming 
gesture. 

"Melchior/' said La Briere, *'I am yours for life 
and death." 

He wrung the poet's hand and left him abruptly, for 
he was in haste to meet Monsieur Mignon* 



Modeste Mignon. 179 



CHAPTER XV. 

A FATHER STBPS IN. 

The Comte de La Bastie was at this moment over* 
whelmed with the sorrows which lay in wait for him 
as their prey. He had learned from his daughter's 
letter of Bettina's death and of his wife's infirmity, and 
Dumay related to him, when they met, his terrible per- 
plexity as to Modeste's love affairs. 

^' Lfeave me to myself," he said to his faithful friend. 

As the lieutenant closed the door, the unhappy father 
threw himself on a sofa, with his head in his hands, 
weeping those slow, scant}^ tears which suffhse the eyes 
of a man of sixty, but do not fall, — tears soon dried, 
yet quick to start again, — the last dews of the human 
autumn. 

** To have children, to have a wife, to adore them — 
what is it but to have many hearts and bare them to 
& dagger?" he cried, springing up with the bound of a 
tiger and walking up and down the room. ^^ To be a 
father is to give one's self over, bound handjind.fppt ttr 
sorrow . If I meet that D'Estourny I will kill him. To 
h ave daughte rs ! — on^^v^s hpr lifp,..to.fl jacoujadrel, the 
other, m^ M<xleste^.&ll8 a yi^^*"* ^^ "^honi'^ a coward, 
^^^ ^flfiHwa h^r iTith thf gildnl paper of a4K>^t. If it 
were Canalis himself it might not be so bad ; but that 
Scapin of a lover! — I will strangle^ him -with my two 



180 Modeste Mignon* 

hands,** he cried, making an involuntary gesture of 
furious determination. " And what then? _supj>ose my 
Modeste were to die o f grief ? " 

He gazed mechanically out of the windows of the 
h5tel des Princes, and then returned to the sofa, where 
he sat motionless. The fatigues of six voyages to 
India, the anxieties of speculation, the dangers he had 
encountered and evaded, and his many griefs, had sil- 
vered Charles Mignon's head. His handsome soldierly 
face, so pure in outline and now bronzed by the suns of 
China and the southern seas, had acquired an air of dig- 
nity which his present grief rendered almost sublime. 

^^ Mongenod told me he felt confidence in the young 
man who is coming to ask me for my daughter," he 
thought at last; and at this moment Ernest de La 
Briere was announced by one of the servants whom 
« Monsieur de La Bastie had attached to himself during 
the last four years. 

"You have come, monsieur, from my friend Mon- 
genod?" he said. 

"Yes," replied Ernest, growing timid when he saw 
before him a face as sombre as Othello's. " My name 
is Ernest de La Briere, related to the family of the late 
cabinet minister, and his private secretary during his 
term of office. On his dismissal, his Excellency put me 
in the Court of Claims, to which I am legal counsel, 
and where I may possibly succeed as chief — " 

" And how does all this concern Mademoiselle de La 
Bastie ? " asked the count. 

"Monsieur, I love her; and I have the unhoped-for 
happiness of being loved by her. Hear me, monsieur," 
cried Ernest, checking a violent movement on the part 



MocUite Mffnon. 181 

of the angry father. ^^ I have the strangest confession 
to make to you, a s hameful one for a man of honor ; 
bat the worst punishment of my conduct, natural enough 
in itself, is not the telling of it to you ; no^ I fear the 
daughter even more than the father." 

Ernest then related simply, and with the nobleness 
tbat comes of sinoeritj', all the facts of his little drama, 
not omitting the twenty or more letters, which he had 
brought with him, nor the interview which he had just 
had with Canalis. When MftflP'*""^ Mign/^n k^ f m*ah£>/i 
reading the letters^ the unfortunate lover, pale and 
suppliant, actually trembled under the fiery glance of 
the Proven9aL 

*^ Monsieur," said the latter, ** in this whole matter 
there is but one error, but that is cardinal. My 
daughter will not have six millions ; at the utmost, she 
will have a marriage portion of two hundred thousand 
francs, and very doubtful expectations." 

^* Ah, monsieur I " cried Ernest, rising and grasping 
Monsieur Mignon*s hand; *^ yon take a load from my^ 

have friends, influence ; I shall certainly be chief of the 
Court of Claims. Had Mademo i selle Modeste no more 
than ten thQu^and ^franga^ if^ had even to make a 
settlem ent on^her, she sliQuld still be m^* wife ; and to 
make her haggy as you, monsieur, have made your wife 
. EapDVi'^ laJag to you a reaT son (for I have no father), 
are th e deepest desires of my he art." 

Charles Mignon stepped back three paces and fixed 
upon La Briere a look which entered the e3'es of the 
young man as a dagger enters its sheath; he stood 
silent a moment, recognizing the absolute candor, the 



182 Modeste Mignon. 

pure trathfblness of that open nature in the light of the 
young man's inspired eyes. ^^ Is fate at last weary of 
pursuing me?" he asked himself. " Am ItojSnd^ in 
this yoneg jaan the pe arl of sons-in-law ? " He walked 
up and down tlie room in strong agitation. 

^^ Monsieur," he said at last, ^^ you are bound to sub- 
mit wholly to the ju^ment which you have come here 
to seek, otherwise you are now playing a farce." 

*'0h, monsieur!" 

^^ Listen to me,? said the father, nailing La Biiere 
where he stood with a glance. ^* I shall be neither 
harsh, nor hard, nor unjust You shall have the ad- 
vantages and the disadvantages of the false position in 
which 3'ou have placed yourself. My daughter believes 
that she loves one of the great poets of the day, whose 
fame is really tb^t which has attracted her. Well, I, 
her father, intend to give her the opportunity to choose 
between the Qelgba^^ which has been a beacon to her, 
and the poor je§lil^which the irony of fate has flung at 
her feet. Ought she not to choose between Canalis and 
yourself? J rely upon 3'our honor not to repeat what I 
have told 3 ou as to the state of my affairs. You may 
each come, I mean you and your friend the Baron de 
Canalis, to Havre for the last two weeks of October. 
My house will be open to both of you, and my daughter 
shall have an opportunity to study you. You must 
yourself bring your rival, and not disabuse him as to 
the foolish tales he will hear about the wealth of the 
Comte de La Bastie. I go to Havre to-morrow, and I 
shall expect 3'Ou three days later. Adieu, monsieur." 

Poor La Briere went back to Canalis with a dragging 
step. The poet, meantime, left to himself, had given 



Modeste Mignon. 188 

way to a current of thought out of which had come that 
secondary impulse which Monsieur de Talleyrand val- 
ued so much. The first impulse is the voice of nature, 
the second that of society. 

'^ A girl worth six millions/' he thought to himself, 
** and my eyes were not able to see that gold shining 
in the darkness ! With such a fortune I could be peer 
of France, count, marquis, ambassador. I 've replied 
to middle-class women and silly women, and crafty 
creatures who wanted autographs ; I Ve tired myself to 
death with masked-ball intrigues, — at the very moment 
when God was sending me a soul of price, an angel with 
golden wings I Bah I I '11 make a poem on it, and per- 
haps the chance will come again. Heavens ! the luck 
of that little La Briere, — strutting about in my lustre 
— plagiarism ! I'm tiie cast and he 's to be the statue, 
is he? It is the old fable of Berlrand and Raton. Six 
millions, a beaut}', a Mignon de La Bastie, an aris- 
tocratic divinity loving poetry and the poet ! And I, 
who showed my muscle as man of the world, who did 
those Alcide exercises to silence by moral force, the 
champion of physical force, that old soldier with a 
heart, that friend of this very young girl, whom he '11 
now go and tell that I have a heart of iron ! — I, to play 
Napoleon when I ought to have been seraphic ! Good 
heavens! True, I sha^^ ^«^^ ^y frifinj Friendsbip 
i s a beautiM thing . I have k ept him^ but „.at>iRbat^a 
price! SixmiUigBS, th at's the cost of J tj., .wej^^P!^ 
ha ve many friends if we pa^; alT that for them." 

LA iiriere entered the room as Canalis reached 
this point in his meditations. He was gloom per* 
sonified. 



184 Modeate Mignon, 

'< Well, what 's the Biatter ? " said Canalis. 

" The father exacts that his daughter shall choo se 
betw ef^P tjn^jiyn Canilia t- " 

"Poor boy!" cried the poet, laughing, "he's a 
clever fellow, that father." 

" I have pledged my honor that I will take yoa to 
Havre," said La Briere, piteously. 

" My dear fellow/' said Canalis, " if it is a question 
of your honor you may count on me. 1*11 ask for 
leftVfi of ahft^nc^ fpr " ^^-^^"^ '* 

" Modeste is so beautiful I " exclaimed La Briere, in 
a despairing tone. " You will crush me out of sight. I 
wondered all along that fate should be so kind to me ; 
I knew it was all a mistake." 

" Bah ! we will see about that," said Canalis with 
inhuman gayety. 

That evening, after dinner, Charles Mignon and t)u^ 
may, were flying, by virtue of three francs to each 
postilion, from Paris to Havre. The father had eased 
the watch-dog's mind as to Modeste an d her love af- 
fairs ; Ihe guarj'was relieved, and Butscha's innocence 
established. 

"It is all. for the best, my old Dumay," said the 
count, who had been making certain inquiries of Mon- 
genod respecting Canalis and La Briere. " We are go- 
ing to have two actors for one part ! " he cried gayly. 

Nevertheless, he requested his old comrade to be 
absolutely silent about the comedy which was now to 
be played at the Chalet, — a comedy it might be, but 
also a geitfjf pnniahmputu or^if. yo a pr efey it, if leftani^ _ 
given by the fathertojhe. daughter^ 

The two friends kept up a long conversation all the 



Modeste Mignm. 185 

way from Paris to Havre, which put the colonel in pos- 
session of the tacts relating to his family during the 
past four years, and informed Dumay that Desplein, 
the great burgeon, was coming bo Havre at the end 
of the present month to examine the cataract on Ma- 
dame Mignon's eyes, and decide if it were possible to 
restore her sight. » 

A few moments before the breakfkst-hour at the 
Chalet, the clacking of a postilion's whip apprised the 
family that the two soldiers were arriving ; only a fa^ 
ther's joy at returning after long absence could be her- 
alded with such clatter, and it brought all the women 
to the garden gate. There is many a father and many 
a child — perhaps more fathers than children — who 
win understand the delights of such an arrival, and 
that happy fact shows that literature has no need to 
depict it. Perhaps all gentle and tender emotions are 
beyond the range of literature. 

Not a word that could trouble the peace of the fam- 
ily was uttered on this jo^-ful day* Truce was tacitly 
established between father, mother, and child as to the 
so-called mysterious love which had paled Modeste's 
cheeks, — for this was the first day she had left her 
bed since Dumay's departure for Paris. The colonel, 
with the charming delicacy of a true soldier, never left 
his wife's side nor released her hand ; but he watched 
Modeste with delight, and was never weary of noting 
her refined, elegant, and poetic beauty. Is it not by 
such seeming trifles that we recognize a man of feeling? 
Modeste, who feared to interrupt the subdued joy of 
the husband and wife kept at a little distance, coming 
^m time to time to kiss her father's forehead, and 



186 Modeste Mignon. 

when she kissed it overmuch she seemed to mean that 
she was kissing it for two, — for Bettina and herself. 

^^ Oh, my darling, I understand you," said the colonel, 
pressing her hand as she assailed him with kisses. 

^^ Hush I " whispered the young girl, glancing at her 
mother. 

Dumay's rather sl}"^ and pregnant silence made Mo- 
desto somewhat uneasy as to the upshot of his journey 
to Paris. She looked at him furtively every now and 
then, without being able to get beneath his epidermis. 
The colonel, like a prudent father, wanted to study the 
character of his only daughter, and above all consnlt 
his wife, before entering on a conference upon which the 
happiness of the whole family depended. 

^^ To-morrow, my precious child," he said as they 
parted for the night, ^^ get up early, and we will go 
and take a walk on the seashore. We have to talk 
about your poems, Mademoiselle de La BasUe." 

His last words, accompanied by a smile, which reap- 
peared like an echo on Dumay's lips, were all that gave 
Modeste any clew to what was coming; but it was 
enough to calm her uneasiness and keep her awake far 
into the night with her head full of suppositions ; this, 
however, did not prevent her fh)m being dressed and 
ready in the morning long before the colonel. 

^^ You know all, my kind papa?" she said as soon 
as they were on the road to the beach. 

^^ I know all, and a good deal more than you do," he 
replied. 

After that remark father and daughter went some 
little way in silence. 

^'Explain to me, my child, how it happens that a 



Modeste Mignon. 187 

girl whom her mother idolizes could have taken such an 
important step as to write to a stranger without con- 
sulting her." 

^^Oh, papa! because mamma would never have al- 
lowed it." 

^^ And do jou think, my daughter, that that was 
proper? Though 3'ou have been educating 3'our mind 
in this fatal way, how is it that your good sense and 
your intellect did not, in default of modesty, step in 
and show you that by acting as you did 3'ou were 
throwing yourself at a man's head. To think that my 
daughter, my only remaining child, s hould lack prid e 
and d elicacy! Oh, Modeste, you made your father 
pass tw ? r h o uiH in hell when he heard of it ; for, after 
all, your conduct has been the same morally as Bet- 
tina's without the excuse of the heart's seduction ; you 
were a coquette in cold blood, and that sort of coquetry 
is head-love, the worst vice of French women." 

"I, without pride!" said Modeste, weeping; "but 
he has not yet seen me." 

*' He knows your name." 

*^ I did not tell it to him till my eyes had vindicated ^ 
the correspondence, lasting three months, during which \ 
our souls h ad spoken to each other." \ 

*^h, my dear misguided angel, you have mixed up 
a species of reason with a folly that has compromised 
your own happiness and that of your family." 

^' But, after all, papa, happiness is the absolution of ( 
my temerity," she said, poutiug. \ 

** Oh I your conduct is temerity, is it ? " I 

*' A temerity that my mother practised before me," 
she retorted quickly. 



188 ModeUe Mignoiu 

'' Rebellious child ! joor mother after seeing me at a 
ball told her father, who adored her, that she thought she 
ooald be happy with me. Be honest, Modeste ; is there 
any likeness between a love hastily conceived, I admit, 
but under the eyes of a father, and your mad action of 
writing to a stranger ? " 

^^ A stranger, papa? say rather one of our greatest 
poets, whose character and whose life are exposed to 
the strongest light of day, to detraction, to calumiij't — 
a man robed in fame, and to whom, my dear father, I 
was a mere literary and dramatic personage, one of 
Shakspeare's women, until the moment when I wished 
to know if the man himself were as beautiful as his 
soul." 

"Good God! my poor child, you are turning mar- 
riage into poetry. But if, from time Immemorial, girls 
have been cloistered in the bosom of their families, if 
God, if social Laws put them under the stem yoke of 
parental sanction, it is, maik my words, to spare them 
the misfortunes that this very poetry which charms 
and dazzles you, and whiish you are therefore un- 
able to judge of, would entail upon them. Poetry is 
indeed one of the pleasures of life, but it is not life 
itself." 

" Papa, that* is a suit still pending before the Court 
of Facts ; the struggle is forever going on between our 
hearts and the claims of family." 

" Alas for the child that finds her happiness in re- 
sisting them," said the colonel, gravely. " In 1813 I 
saw one of my comrades, the Marquis d'Aiglemont, 
maiT}^ his cousin against the wishes of her father, and 
the pair have since paid dear for the obstinacy which 



Mbdeste JSignon. 189 

the young girl took for love. The family must be 
sovereign in marriag e/* 

" My poet has told me all that,'* she answered. " He 
pla3' ed Orgon for some time ; and he was brave enough 
to disparage the personal lives of poets." 

**I have read yonr lettei-s," said Charles Mignon, 
with the flicker of a malicious smile on his lips that 
made Modeste very uneasy, '* and I ought to remark 
that 3'our last epistle was scarcely permissible in any 
Woman, even a Julie d'Etanges. Good God! what 
harm novels do!" 

** We should live them, my dear father, whether 
people wrote them or not ; I think it is better to read 
them. There are not so many adventures in these days 
as there were under Louis XTV. and Louis XV., and 
so they publish fewer novels. Besides, if you have 
read those letters, you must know that I have chosen 
the most angelic soul, the most sternly upright man for 
your son-in-law, and you must have seen that we love 
one another at least as much as you and mamma love 
each other. Well, I admit that it was not all exactly 
conventional; I did, if you will have me say so, 
wrong — '• 

'* I have read your letters," said her father, interrupt- 
ing her, " and I know exactly how far 3'our lover jus- 
tified you in your own eyes for a proceeding which 
might be permissible in some woman who understood 
life, and who was led away by strong passion, but 
which in a young girl of twenty was a monstrous piece 
of wrong-doing." 

*' Yes, wrong-doing for commonplace people, for the 
narrow-minded Gobenheims, who measure life with a 



190 Modeste Mignan. 

square role. Flease let us keep to the artistic and 
poetic life, papa. We young girls have only two ways 
to act; we must let a man know we love him by 
mincing and simpering, or we must go to him frankly. 
Is n't the last way grand and noble? We French girls 
are delivered over by our families like so much mer- 
chandise, at sixty days' sight, sometimes thirty, like 
Mademoiselle Vilquin ; but in England, and Switzerland, 
and Germany, they follow very much the plan I have 
adopted. Now what have you got to say to that? Am 
I not half German?" 

** Child I" cried the colonel, looking at her; "the 
supremacy of France comes from her sound common- 
sense, from the logic to which her noble language con- 
strains her mind. France is the reason of the whole 
world. England and Germany are romantic in their 
marriage customs, — though even there noble families 
follow our customs. You certainly do not mean to 
deny that your parents, who know life, who are respon- 
sible for your soul and for your happiness, have no 
right to guard you from the stumbUng-blocks that are 
in your way? Good heavens ! " he continued, speaking 
half to himself, " is it their fault, or is it purs? Ought 
we to hold our children under an iron j'oke? Must we 
be punished for the tenderness that leads us to make 
them happy, and teaches our hearts how to do so?" 

Modeste watched her father out of the corner of her 
eye as she listened to this species of invocation, uttered 
in a broken voice. 

*' Was it wrong," she said, " in a girl whose heart 
was free, to choose for her husband not only a charm- 
ing companion, but a man of noble genius, born to an 



Modeste Mignqn. 191 

honorable position, a gentleman ; the equal of myself^ 
a gentlewoman ? " 

'* You love him? " asked her father. 

^* Father ! " she said, laying her head upon his breast, 
" would yon see me die? " 

^^ Enough ! " said the old soldier. ^^ I see your love 
is inextinguishable." 

" Yes, inextinguishable." 
' " Can nothing change it? " 

** Nothing." 

" No circumstances, no treachery, no betrayal? You 
mean that you will love him in spite of everything, 
becanse of his personal attractions? Even though he 
proved a D'Estoumy, would you love him still?" 

** Oh, my father ! you do not know your daughter. 
Could I love a coward, a man without honor, without 
faith?" 

" But suppose he had deceived 3'ou?" 

"He? that honest, candid soul, half meltncholy? 
Yon are joking, father, or else you have never met 
him." 

'* But you see now that your love is not inextinguish- 
able, as you chose to call it. I have already made you 
admit that circumstances could alter your poem ; don't 
yoa now see that fathers are good for something?" 

"You want to give me a lecture, papa; it is posi- 
tively FAmi des Enfants over again." 

** Poor deceived girl," said her father, sternly ; " it is 
no lecture of mine, I count for nothing in it ; indeed, 
I am only trying to soften the blow." 

" Father, don't play tricks with my life," exclaimed 
Modeste, turning pale. 



192 Mode9U Migncn. 

^^Then, my daughter, sammon all your ooun^. It 
is you who have been playing tricks with your life, and 
life is now tricking you." 

Modeste looked at her &ther in stupid amazement. 

^^ Suppose that young man whom you love, whom 
yon saw foor days ago at church in Havre, was a 
deceiver?" 

"Never!" she cried; "that noble head, that pale 
face full of poetry — " 

" — was a lie," said the colonel interruptii^ her. 
^He was no more Monsieur de Canalis than I am 
that sailor over there putting out to sea." 

"Do you know what you are killing in me?" she 
said in a low voice. 

" Comfort yourself, my child ; though accident has 
put the punishment of your fault into tiie fault itself, 
the harm done is not irreparable. The young man 
whom you have seen, and with whom you exchanged 
hearts By correspondence, jsj t^ loyal and honm -able 
fellow; he came to me and confided everything" He 
loves you, and I have no objection to him as a son-in- 
law." 

" If he is not Canalis, who is he then ? " sidd Modeste 
in a changed voice. 

" The secretary ; his name is Ernest de La Bri^re. 
He is not a nobleman ; but he is one of those plain men 
with fixed principles and sound morality wh o satisfy, 
parents. However, that is not the point; you have 
seen him and nothing can change your heart; you 
have chosen him, you comprehend his soul, it is as 
beautiful as he himself." 

The count was interrupted by a heavy sigh from 



Mbdeste Mignon. 193 

Modeste. The poor girl sat with her eyes fixed on the 
sea, pale and rigid as death, as if a pistol shot had 
struck her in those fatal words, a plain num^ vMh y^ 
fixed principles and sound morcU i^, ^ 

" Deceived I " she said at last 

*' Like your poor sister, but less fatally." 

'' Let us go home, father," she said, rising from the 
hillock on which they were sitting. "Papa, hear me, 
I swear before God to obey your wishes, whatever they 
may be, in the affair of my marriage." 

''Then you don't Ipve him any longer?" asked her 
father. 

"I loved an honest man, with no falsehood on his 
face, upright as yourself, incapable of disguising himself 
like an actor, with the paint of another man's glory on 
his cheeks." 

''You said nothing could change you ;'* remarked the 
Colonel, ironically. 

" Ah, do not trifle with me ! " she exclaimed, clasping 
her hands and looking at her father in distressful anx- 
iety ; " don't you see that you are wringing my heart 
and destroying my beliefs with your jokes." 

" God forbid ! I have told you the exact truth." 

" You are very kind, father," she said after a pause, 
and with a sort of solemnity. 

"He has kept your letters," resumed the colonel; 
" now suppose the rash caresses of your soul had fallen 
into the hands of one of those poets who, as Dumay 
says, light their cigars with them ? " 

" Oh ! — you are going too far." 

" Canalis told him so." 

" Has Dumay seen Canalis? " 
13 



194 Modeste Mignon. 

" Yes," answered her father. 

The two walked along in silence. 

^' So this is why that gentleman" resumed Modeste, 
'^ told me so much harm of poets and poetry ; no won- 
der the little secretary, said — Why," she added, inter- 
rupting herself, " his virtues, his noble qualities, his 
fine sentiments are nothing but an epistolary theft! 
The man who steals glory -^nd a name may very 
Ukely— " 

^' — break locks, steal purses, and cut people's 
throats on the highway," cried the colonel. "Ah, 
you young girls, that *s just like you, — with your per- 
emptory opinions and your ignorance of life. A man 
who once deceives a woman was born under the scaffold 
on which he ought to die." « 

This ridicule stopped Modeste's effervescence for a 
moment at least, and again there was silence. 

"My^ child," said the colonel, presently, *'raen in 
society, as in nature everywhere, are made to win the 
hearts of women, and women must defend themselves. 
You have chosen to invert the parts. Was that wise ? 
Everything is false in a false position. The first 
wrong-doing was yours. No, a man is not a monster 
because he seeks to please a woman ; it is our right to 
win her by aggression with all its consequences, short 
of crime and cowardice. A man may have many vir- 
tues even if he does deceive a woman ; if he deceives 
her, it is because he finds her wanting in some of the 
treasures that he sought in her. None but a queen, an 
actress, or a woman placed so far above a man that she 
seems to him a queen, can go to him of herself without 
incurring blame — and for a 5'oung girl to do it ! Why, 



Modeate Mignon, 19.1 

she is false to all that God has given her that is sacred 
and lovelj' and noble, — no matter with what gi-ace or 
what poetry or what precautions she surrounds her 
fault." 

** To seek the master and find the servant!" she 
said bitterly, " oh I I can never recover from it ! " 

^^ Nonsense! Monsieur Ernest de La Briere is, to 
my thinking, fully the equal of the Baron de Canalis. 
He was private secretary of a cabinet minister, and he 
is now counsel for the Court of Claims ; he has a heart, 
and he adores you, but — he does not write verses. 
No, I admit, he is not a poet ; but for all that he may 
have a heart full of poetry. At any rate, my dear 
girl," added her father, as Modeste made a gesture of 
disgust, ^^you are to see both of them, the sham and 
the true Canalis — " 

*'Oh, papa! — " 

*' Did 3^ou not swear just now to obey me in every- 
thing, even in the affair of your marriage? Well, I 
allow you to choose which of the two you like best for 
a husband. You have begun by a poem, you shall 
finish with a bucolic, an d try if you caa. discover the 
real charac ter of these gentlemen here, in the country, 
on a few hun tuig or fishing excursions.'*^ 

Modeste bowed her head and walked home with her 
father, listening to what he said but replying only in 
monosyllables. 



196 Modeste Mtgnon. 



CHAPTER XVI. 

BISEKCHAiniBD. 

The poor girl had fallen humiliated from the alp she 
had scaled in search of her eagle's nest, into the mud 
of the swamp below, where (to use the poetic language 
of an author of our day) " after feeling the soles of 
her feet too tender to tread the broken glass of reality. 
Imagination — which in that delicate bosom united the 
whole of womanhood, from the violet-hidden reveries 
of a chaste young girl to the passionate desires of the 
sex — had led her into enchanted gardens where, 
oh, bitter sight! she now saw, springing from the 
ground, not the sublime flower of her fancy, but the 
hairy, twisted limbs of the black mandragora." Mo- 
deste suddenly found herself brought down from the 
mystic heights of her love to a straight, flat road bor- 
dered with ditches, — in short the work-day path of 
common life. What ardent, aspiring soul would not 
have been bruised and broken by such a fall? Whose 
feet were these at which she had shed her thoughts? 
The Modeste who re-entered the Chalet was no more 
the Modeste who had left it two hours earlier than an 
actress in the street is like an actress on the boards. 
She fell into a state of numb depression that was piti- 
ful to see. The sun was darkened, nature veiled itself, 
even the flowers no longer spoke to her. Like all 



Modeite Mignon. 197 

young girls with a tendency to eslx'emes, she drank too 
deeply of the cup of disillusion. She fought against 
reality, and would not bend her neck to the yoke of 
family and conventions ; it was, she felt, too heavy, too 
hard, too crushing. She would not listen to the conso- 
lations of her father and mother, and tasted a sort of 
savage pleasure in letting her soul suffer to the utmost. 

^^ Poor Butscha was right," she said one evening. 

The words indicate the distance she travelled in 
a short space of time and in gloomy sadness across the 
barren plain of reality. Sadness, when caused by the 
overgrowth of hope, is a disease, — sometimes a fatal 
one. It would be no mean object for physiology to 
search out in what wa^'s and by what means Thought 
produces the same internal disorganization as poison; 
and how it is Uiat despair affects the appetite, destroys 
the pylorus, and changes all the physical conditions of 
the strongest life. Such was the case with Modeste. 
In three short days she became the image of morbid 
melancholy ; she did not sing, she could not be made to 
smile. Charles Mignon, becoming uneasy at the non- 
arrival of the two friends, thought of going to fetch 
them, when, on the evening of the fifth day, he received 
news of their movements through Latournelle. 

Canalis, excessively delighted at the idea of a rich 
marriag e^ was determined to neglect nothing tiiat might 
help him to cut out La Brlere, without, however, giv- 
ing La Briere a*chance to reproach him for having 
violated the laws o f friendship. The poet feirthat 
nothing would lower a lover so much in the eyes of a 
young girl as to exhibit him in a jtubordinate position ; 
and he therefore proposed to La Briere, in the most 



198 Modeste Mignon. 

natural manner, to take a little country-house at In- 
gouville for a mojith, and live there together on pre- 
tence of requiring sea-air. As soon as La Briere, who 
at first saw nothing amiss in .the proposal, had con- 
sented, Canalis declared that he should pay all ex- 
penses, and he sent his valet to Havre, telling him to 
see Monsieur Latoumelle and get his assistance in 
choosing the house, — well aware that the notary would 
repeat all particulars to the Mignons. Ernest and 
Canalis had, as may well be supposed, talked over all 
the aspects of the affair, and the rather prolix Ernest 
had given a goocL many useful hints to his rival. The 
valet, understanding his master's wishes, fulfilled them 
to the letter; he trumpeted the arrival of the great 
poet, for whom the doctors advised sea-air to restore 
his health, injured as it was by the double toils of lit- 
erature and politics. This important personage wanted 
a house, which must have at least such and such a 
number of rooms, as he would bring with him a secre- 
tary, cook, two servants, and a coachman, not counting 
himself, Germain Bonnet, the valet. The carriage, 
selected and hired for a month by Canalis, was a prett}'^ 
one ; and Germain set about finding a pair of fine 
horses which would also answer as saddle-horses, — for, 
as he said, monsieur le baron and his secretary took 
horseback exercise. Under the e^-es of little Latour- 
nelle, who went with him to various houses, Germain 
made a good deal of talk about the Secretary, rejecting 
two or three because there was no suitable room for 
Monsieur de La Briere. 

" Monsieur le baron," he said to the notary, '' makes 
his secretary quite his best friend. Ah! I should be 



Modeste Mignon. 199 

well scolded if Monsieur de La Briere were not as well 
treated as monsieur le baron himself; and after all, 
you know, Monsieur de La Briere is a lawyer in my 
master's court." 

Germain never appeared in public unless punctil- 
iously dressed in black, with spotless gloves, well- 
polished boots, and otherwise as well apparelled as a 
lawyer. Imagine the effect he produced in Havre, and 
the idea people took of the great poet from this sample 
of him ! The valet of a man of wit and intellect ends 
by getting a little wit and intellect himself which has 
rubbed off from his master. Germain did not overplay 
his part ; he was simple and good-humored, as Canalis 
had instructed him to be. Poor La Briere was in bliss- 
ful ignorance of the harm Germain was doing to his 
prospects, and the depreciation his consent to the 
arrangement had brought upon him; it is, however, 
tme that some inkling of the state of things rose to 
Modeste's ears from these lower regions. 

Canalis had arranged to bring his secretary in his 
own carriage, and Ernest's unsuspicious nature did not 
perceive that lie was putting himself in a false position 
until too late to remedy it. The delay in the arrival of 
the pair which had troubled Charles Mignon was caused 
by the painting of the Canalis arms on the panels of 
the carriage, and by certain orders given to a tailor ; 
for the poet neglected none of the innumerable details 
which might, even the smallest of them, influence a 
young girl. 

" It is all right," said Latournelle to Mignon on the 
sixth da\'. '*The baron's valet has hired Madame 
Amaurv's villa at Sanvic, all furnished, for seven hun- 



200 Mode^te Migno^ 

dred firancs ; he has 3i?ritten to his master that he may 
start) and that all will be ready on his arrival. So the 
two gentlemen will be here Sunday. I have also had 
a letter from Butscha; here it is; it's not long: 
* My dear master, -^ I cannot get back till Sunday. 
Between now and then I have some very important 
inquiries to make which concern the happiness of a 
person in whom you take an interest."* 

The announcement of this arrival did not rouse 
Modeste f^om her gloom ; the sense of her fall and the 
bewilderment of her mind were still too great, and she 
was not nearly as much of a coquette as her father 
thought her to be. There is, in truth, a charming and 
permissible coquetry, that of the soul, which may claim 
to be love's politeness. Charles Mignon, when scolding 
his daughter, failed to distinguish between the mere 
desire of pleasing and the love of the mindj. — t he thirst 
for_ love, and the thirst for admiration. Like every 
true colonel of the Empire he saw in this correspond- 
ence, rapidly read, only tlie young girl who had 
thrown herself at the head of a poet ; but in the letters 
which we were forced for lack of space to suppress, a 
better judge would have admired the dignified and 
gracious reserve which Modeste had substituted for the 
rather a^ressive and light-minded tone of her first 
letters. The father, however, was only too cruelly 
right on one point. Modeste's last letter, which we 
have read, had indeed spoken as though the marriage 
were a settled fact, and the remembrance of that letter 
filled her with shame; she thought her father very 
/harsh and cruel to force her to receive a man unworthy 
1 of her, yet to whom her soul had flown, as it were, bare. 



Mode%te Mignon. 201 

She questioned Damay about his interview with the 
poet, she inveigled him into relating its every detail, 
and she did not think Canalis as barbarous as the 
lieutenant had declared him. The thought of the beau- 
tifid casket which held the letters of the thousand and 
one women of this literary Don Juan made her smile, 
and she was strongly tempted to say to her father : ^^ I 
ftm not the only one to write to him ; the ^lite of my 
sex send their leaves for the laurel wreath of the 
poet." 

During this week Modeste's character underwent a 
Jra noform ation. The catastrophe — and it was a great 
T5ne to her poetic nature — roused a faculty of discern-, 
ment and also the malice latent in her girlish heart, in 
which her suitors were about to encounter a formidable 
adversary. It is a fact that when a young woman's 
heart is chilled her head becomes clear; she observes 
with great rapidity of judgment, and with a tinge of 
pleasantry which Shakspeare's Beatrice so admirably 
represents in "Much Ado about Nothing." Modeste 
was seized with a deep disgust for men, now that the 
most distinguished among them had betrayed her hopes. 
When a woman loves, what she takes for disgust is 
simply the ability to see clearly ; but in matters of sen- 
timent she is never, especially if she is a young girl, in a 
condition to see clearly. If she cannot admire, she de- 
spises. And so, after passing though terrible struggles 
of the soul, Mo deste necessarily pu t on the armor on 
which, as she had once declared, the word " Disdain", 
was engraved. After reaching that point she was able, 
in the character of uninterested spectator, to take part 
in what she was pleased to call the '' fareo of the 



/ 



202 Modeste Mignon. 

suitors," a performance in which she herself was about 
to play the r61e of heroine. She partic ularly set before 
he rmind the satis ffifition of humiliatin ^Monaif^ur de T^a 
B rieret - 

'^ Modeste jfLsasad," said Madame Mignon to her 
husband ; '^ j^he want?., to revenge ^^r^filf ^^ ^^^ ^«^Pf 
Canalis by trying to love the jsaLiffie." 

Such in truth was Modeste's plan. It was so utterly 
commonplace that her mother, to whom she confided 
her griefs, advised her on the contrary to treat Mon- 
sieur de La Briere with extreme politeness. 



Modeate Mignon. 208 



CHAPTER XVn. 

A THIRD SUITOR. 

" Those two young men," said Madame Latoumelle, 
on the Saturday evening, " have no idea how many 
spies they have on their tracks. We are eight in all, 
on the watch." 

" Don't say two young men, wife ; say three ! " cried 
little Latoumelle, looking round him. '^ Gobenhcim is 
not here, so I can speak out." 

Modeste raised her head, and everybody, imitating 
Modeste, raised theirs and looked at the notary. 

"Yes, a third lover — and he is something like a 
lover — offers himself as a candidate." 

" Bah ! '^exclaimed the colonel. 

"I speak of no less a person," said Latournelle, 
pompously, " than Mon sieur le Due d! Hi^Quyille. 
Marquis de Saint-Sever, Due de Nivron, Comte de 
Bayeux, Vicomte d'Essignj-, grand equerry and peer of 
France, knight of the Spur and the Golden Fleece, 
grandee of Spain, and son of the last governor of Nor- 
mandy. He saw Mademoiselle Modeste at the time 
when he was staying with the Vilquins, and he regretted 
then — as his notary, who came from Ba3'eux yesterday, 
tells me — that she was not rich enough for him ; for his 
father recovered nothing butlhe estate of Henmivjlle on 
his return to France, and that is saddled with a sister. 



204 ModeiU MignoH. 

The young duke is thirty-three years old. I am defini- 
tively charged to lay these proposals before you, Mon- 
sieur le comte," added the notary, turning respectfully 
to the colonel 

^' Ask Modeste if she wants another bird in her 
cage," replied the count ; '^ as far as I am concerned, I 
am willing that my lord the grand equerry shall pay 
her attention." 

Notwithstanding the care with which Charles Mignon 
avoided seeing people, and though he stayed in the 
Chalet and never went out without Modeste, Goben- 
heim had reported Dumay's wealth; for Dumay had 
said to him when giving up his position as cashier: 
^' I am to be bailiff for my colonel, and all my fortune, 
except what my wife needs, is to go to the children of 
our little Modeste." Every one in Havre had therefore 
propounded the same question that the notary had al- 
ready put to himself: ^^ If Dumay's share in the pro- 
fits is six hundred thousand francs, and he is going to 
be Monsieur Mignon's bailifi", then Monsieur Mignon 
must certainly have a colossal fortune. He arrived at 
Marseilles on a ship of his own, loaded with indigo ; 
and they say at the Bourse that the cargo, not counting 
the ship, is worth more than he gives out as his whole 
fortune." 

The colonel was unwilling to dismiss the servants he 
had brought back with him, whom he had chosen with 
care during his travels ; and he therefore hired a house 
for them in the lower part of Ingouville, where he in- 
stalled his valet, cook, and coachman, all negroes, and 
three mulattoes on whose fidelity he could rely. The 
coachman was told to search for saddle-horses for Ma- 



Mode$te Mignon. 205 

demoiselle and for his master, and for carriage-horses 
for the caleche in which the colonel and the lieutenant 
had returned to Havre. That carriage, bought in 
Paris, was of the latest fashion, and bore the arms of 
La Bastie, surmounted by a count's coronet. These 
things, insignificant in the eyes of a man who for four 
years had been accustomed to the unbridled luxury of 
the Indies and of the English merchants at Canton, 
were the subject of much comment among the business 
men of Havre and the inhabitants of Ingouville and 
Graville. Before five days has elapsed the rumor of 
them ran from one end of Normandy to the other like 
a train of gunpowder touched by fire. 

*^ Monsieur Mignon has come back from China with 
millions," some one said in Bouen ; '^ and it seems he 
was made a count in mid-ocean." 

^' But he was the Comte de La Bastie before the Be- 
volution/' answered another. 

'^ So they call him a liberal just because he was plain 
Charles Mignon for twenty-five years ! What are we 
coming to? " said a third. 

Modeste was considered, therefore, notwithstanding 
the silence of her parents and friends, as the richest 
heiress in Normand}^ and all e^^es began once more to 
see her merits. The aunt and sister of the Due d'H^- 
rouviUe confirmed in the aristocratic salons of Bayeux 
Monsieur Charles Mignon's right to the title and arms 
of count, derived from Cardinal Mignon, for whom the 
Cardinal's hat and tassels were added as a crest. They 
had seen Mademoiselle de La Bastie when they were 
8ta3ing at the Vilquins, and their solicitude for the im- 
poverished head of their house now became active. 



206 Modeste Mignon. 

'^ If Mademoiselle de La Bastie is really as rich as she 
is beautlfal," said the aunt of the young duke, ^' she is 
the best match in the province. She at least is noble." 

The last words were aimed at the Vilquins, with 
whom they had not been able to come to terms, after 
incurring the humiliation of staying in that boui^eois 
household. 

Such were the little events which, contrary to the 
rules of Aristotle and of Horace, precede the introduc- 
tion of another person into our story ; but the portrait 
and the biography of this personage, this late arrival^ 
shall not be long, taking into consideration his own 
diminutiveness. The grand equerry shall not take 
more space here than he will take in history. Monsieur 
le Due d' H^rouville, offspring of the matrimonial au- 
tumn of the last governor of Normandy, was born 
during the emigration in 1799, at Vienna. The old 
mar^chal, father of the present duke, returned with the 
king in 1814, and died in 1819, before he was able to 
marry his son. He could only leave him the vast 
ch&teau of H^rouville, the park, a few dependencies, and 
a farm which he had bought back with some difficulty ; 
all of which returned a rental of about fifteen thousand 
francs a year. Louis XVIII. gave the post of grand 
equerry to the son, who, under Charles X., received the 
usual pension of twelve thousand francs which was 
granted to the pauper peers of France. But what were 
these twenty-seven thousand francs a year and the salary 
of grand equerr}' to such a family ? In Paris, of course, 
the young duke used the king's coaches, and had a 
mansion provided for him in the rue Saint-Thomas-du- 
Louvre, near the royal stables; his salary paid for 



Modeste Mignon. 207 

his winters in the city, and his twenty-seven thousand 
francs for the summers in Normandy. If this noble 
personage was still a bachelor he was less to blame 
than his aunt, who was not versed in La Fontaine's 
fables. Mademoiselle d'Herouville made enormous 
pretensions, wholly out of keeping with the spirit of 
the times; for great names, without the money to 
keep th'em up, can seldom win rich heiresses among 
the higher French nobihtj^ who are themselves embar- 
rassed to provide for their sons under the new law of the 
equal division of propert3\ To marry the young Due 
d'H^rouville, it was necessary to conciliate the great 
banking-houses ; but the haughty pride of the daughter 
of the house alienated these people by cutting speeches. 
During the first years of the Restoration, from 1817 to 
1825, Mademoiselle d'Herouville, though in quest of 
millions, refused, among others, the daughter of Mon- 
genod the banker, with whom Monsieur de Fontaine 
afterwards contented himself. 

At last, having lost several good opportunities to 
establish her nephew, entirely through her own fault, 
she was just considering whether the property of the 
Nucingens was not too basely acquired, or whether she 
should lend herself to the ambition of Madame de 
Nucingen, who wished to make her daughter a duchess. 
The king, anxious to restore the d'H^rouvilles to their 
former splendor, had almost brought about this mar- 
riage, and when it failed he openly accused Mademoiselle 
d'Herouville of folly. In this way the aunt made the ' 
nephew ridiculous, and the nephew, in his own way, was 1 
not less absurd. When great things disappear they leave '' 
crumbs, fruateaxi^^ Rabelais would say, behind them ; 



208 Modeste Mignon. 

and the French nobility of this centary has left us too 
many such fragments. Neither the clei^y nor the 
nobility have anything to complain of in this long his^ 
tory of manners and customs. Those great and mag- 
nificent social necessities have been well represented ; 
but we ought surely to renounce the noble title of his- 
torian if we are not impartial, if we do not here depict 
the present degeneracy of the race of nobles, although 
we have already done so elsewhere, — in the character of 
the Comte de Mortsauf (in " The Lily of the Valley "), 
in the ^^ Dachesse de Langeais," and the very nobleness 
of the nobility in the Marquis d'Espard. How then 
could it be that the race of heroes and valiant men 
belonging to the proud house of H^rouville, who gave 
the famous marshal to the nation, cardinals to the 
church, great leaders to the Yalois, knights to Louis 
XIV., was reduced to a little fragile being smaller than 
Butscha? That is a question which we ask ourselves 
in more than one salon in Paris when we hear the great- 
est names of France announced, ^nd see the entrance 
of a thin, pinched, undersized 3'oung man, scarcely pos- 
sessing the breath of life, or a premature old one, or 
some whimsical creature in whom an observer can with 
great diflSculty trace the signs of a past grandeur. The 
dissipations of the reign of Louis XV., the orgies of that 
fatal and egotistic period, have produced an effete gen- 
eration, in which manners alone survive the nobler van- 
ished qualities, — forms, which are the sole heritage our 
nobles have preserved. The abandonment in which 
Louis XVL was allowed to perish may thus be explained, 
with some slight reservations, as a wretched result of 
the reign of Madame de Pompadour. 



Modeste MigTum. 209 

The grand equerry, a fair young man with blue eyes 
and a pallid face, was not without a certain dignity 
of thought; but his thin, undersized figure, and the 
follies of his aunt who had taken him to the Vilquins 
and elsewhere to pay his court, rendered him extremely 
diffident. The house of HerouviUe had already been 
threatened with extinction by the deed of a deformed 
being (see the JEkfant Maudit in '^ Philosophical 
Studies"). The grand marshal, that being the family 
term for the member who was made duke by Louis XIII., 
married at the age of eighty. The young duke admired 
women, but he placed them too high and respected 
them too much ; in fact, he adored them, and was only 
at his ease with those whom he could not respect. This 
characteristic caused him to lead a double life. He 
found compensation with women of easy virtue for the 
worship to which he surrendered himself in the salons, 
or, if you like, the boudoirs, of the faubourg Saint* 
Germain. Such habits and his puny figure, his suffer- 
ing face with its blue eyes turning upward in ecstasy, 
increased the ridicule already bestowed ux)on him, — very 
unjustly bestowed, as it happened, for he was full of 
wit and delicacy; but his wit, which never sparkled, 
only showed itself when he felt at ease. Fanny Beau- 
prd, an actress who was supposed to be his nearest 
friend (at a price), called him " a sound wine so care- 
fully corked that you break all your corkscrews." Tbe 
beautiful Duchesse de Maufrigneuse, whom the grand 
equerry could only worship, annihilated him with a 
speech which, unfortunately*, was repeated from mouth 
to mouth, like all such pretty and malicious sayings. 

**He alwa^'s seems to me," she said, "like one of 
14 



210 Modeste Mignon. 

those jewels of fine workmanship which we exhibit but 
never wear, and keep in cotton-wool." 

Everything about him, even to his absurdly contrast- 
ing title of grand equerry, amused the good-natured 
king, Charles X., and made him laugh, — although the 
Due d'Herouville justified his appointment in the matter 
of being a fine horseman. Men are like books, often 
understood and appreciated too late. Modeste had 
seen the duke during his fruitless visit to the Vilquins, 
and many of these refiections passed through her mind 
as she watched him come and go. But under the cir- 
cumstances in which she now found herself, she saw 
plainly that the courtship of the Due d'H6rouville 
would save her from being at the mercy of either 
Can alls. 

" I see no reason," she said to Latoumelle, " why 
the Due d*Herouville should not be received. I have 
passed, in spite of our indigence," she continued, with 
a mischievous look at her father, " to the condition 
of heiress. I shall probably end by publishing a bul- 
letin. Have n't you observed Gobenheim's glances ? 
They have quite changed their character within a week. 
He is in despair at not being able to make his games 
of whist count for mute adoration of my charms." 

^^ Hush, my darling!" cried Madame Latournelle, 
*' here he comes." 

" Old Althor is in despair," said Gobenheim to Mon- 
sieur Mignon as he entered. 

'' Why ? " asked the Count. 

" Vilquin is going to fail ; and the Bourse thinks you 
are worth several millions. What ill-luck for his son ! " 
> "No one knows," said Charles Mignon, coldly, "what 



Modeste Mignon. 211 

my liabilities in India are ; and I do not intend to take 
the public into my confidence as to m}'^ private affairs. 
Dumay," he whispered to his friend, " if Vilquin is 
embarrassed we could get back the villa by paying him 
what he gave for it." 

Such was the general state of things, due chiefly to 
accident, when on Sunday morning Canalis and La 
Briere arrived, with a courier in advance, at the villa 
of Madame Amaury. It was known that the Due 
d'H^rouville, his sister, and his aunt were coming the 
following Tuesday to occupy, also under pretext of ill- 
health, a hired house at Graville. This assemblage of 
suitors made the wits of the Bourse remark that, thajikE. . >' v\vA 
to M^dprnoiselle M ignon , ren ts jgou ld rise aL Jn^COU- )(V/^'* 
ville. '^ If this goes on, she will have a hospital here," 
said the younger Mademoiselle Vilquin, vexed at not 
becoming a duchess. 

The everlasting comedy of " The Heiress," about 
to be played at the Chalet, might very well be called, 
in view of Modeste's frame of mind, *' The Designs of a 
Young Girl ; " for since the overthrow of her illusions 
she had fully made up her mind to give her hand to no 
man whose qualifications did not fully satisfy her. 

The two rivals, still intitnate friends, intended to pay 
their first visit to the Chalet on the evening of the day 
succeeding their arrival. They had spent Sunday and 
part of Monday in unpacking and arranging Madame 
Amaury's house for a month's stay. The poet, always 
calculating effects, wished to make the most of the 
probable excitement which his arrival would cause 
in Havre, and which would of course echo up to the 
Mignons. Therefore, in his rdle of a man needing rest, 



212 Modeste Mtgnan. 

he did not leave the honse. Lft Bri^re went twioe to 
walk past the Chalet, though always with a sense of 
despair, for he feared he had displeased Modeste, and 
the future seemed to him dark with clouds. The two 
friends came down to dinner on Monday dressed for t^e 
momentous visit. La Briere wore the same clothes he 
had so carefhlly selected for the famous Sunday ; but 
he now felt like the satellite of a planet^ and resigned 
himself to the uncertainties of his situation* Canalis, 
on the other hand, had carefhlly attended to his black 
coat, his orders, and all those little drawing-room ele- 
gancies, which his intimacy with the Duchesse de Chau- 
lieu and the fashionable world of the faubourg had 
brought to perfection. He had gone into the minutiae 
of dandyism, while poor La Briere was about to present 
himself with the negligence of a man without hope. 
Germain, as he waited at dinner could not help smiling 
to himself at the contrast After the second course, 
however, the valet came in with a diplomatic, that is to 
say, uneasy air. 

'^ Does Monsieur le baron know," he said to Canalis 
in a low voice, " that Monsieur the grand equerry is 
coming to Graville to get cured of the same illness 
which has brought Monsieur de La Briere and Monsieur 
le baron to the sea-shore? '* 

" What, the little Due d'H^rouville? " 

*' Yes, monsieur." 

^^Is he coming for Mademoiselle de La Bastie?" 
asked La Briere, coloring. 

" So it appeal's, monsieur." 

'^We are cheated!" cried Canalis looking at La 
Briere. 



Modeste Migwm. 213 

** Ah ! '^ retorted Ernest quickly, •' that is the first i ^ 
time yoa have said, ^ wg ' since we left Paris : it has / 
been ' I ' all along." 

*' l^u understood me," cried Canalis, with a burst of 
laughter. *^ But we are not in a position to struggle 
against a ducal coronet, nor the duke's title, nor against 
the waste lands which the Council of State have just 
granted, on my report, to the house of Herouville." 

'^ His grace," said La Briere, with a spice of malice 
that was neyertheless serious, ^^ will furnish you with 
compensation in the person of his sister." 

At this ihstant, the Comte de La Bastie was an- 
nounced; the two young men rose at once, and La 
Briere hastened forward to present Canalis. 

^* I wished to return the visit that you paid me in 
Paris," said the count to the young lawyer, '* and I 
knew that by coming here I should have the double 
pleasure of meeting one of our great living poete." 

*^ Great I •-<- Monsieur,'' replied the poet, smiling, 
*♦ no one can be great in a century prefaced by the 
reign of a Napoleon. We are a tribe of would-be • 
great poete ; besides, second-rate talent imitetes genius 
nowadays, and renders real distinction impossible." 

** Is that the reason why you have thrown yourself 
into politics? " asked the count. 

'' It is the same thing in that sphere," said the poet ; 
«^ there are no statesmen in these days, only men who 
handle evente more or less. Look at it, monsieur; 
under the system of government that we derive from 
the Charter, which makes a tax-list of more importance 
than a coat-of-arms, there is absolutely nothing solid ex- 
cept that which you went to seek in China, — wealth." 



214 Modeste Migrum. 

Satisfied with himself and with the impression he was 
making on the prospective father-in-law, Canalis turned 
to Germain. 

^^ Serve the coffee in the salon," he said, inviting 
Monsieur de La Bastie to leave the dining-room. 

" I thank you for this visit, monsieur le comte," said 
La Briere ; ^Mt saves me from the embarrassment of 
presenting my friend to you in 3*our own house. You 
have a heart, and you have also a quick mind." 

" Bah ! the ready wit of Provence, that is all," said 
Charles Mignon. 

" Ah, do you come from Provence? " cried Canalis. 

** You must pardon my friend," said La Briere ; " he 
has not studied, as I have, the history of La Bastie." 

At the word /riem^ Canalis threw a searching glance 
at Ernest. 

^' If your health will allow," said the count to the 
poet, '* I shall hope to receive you this evening under 
my roof; it will be a day to mark, as the old writer 
said albo notanda lapillo. Though we cannot duly 
receive so great a fame in our little house, yet your visit 
will gratify my daughter, whose admiration for your 
poems has even led her to set them to music." 

'^You have something better than fame m your 
house," said Canalis; "you have beauty, if I am to 
believe Ernest," 

" Yes, a good daughter ; but yon wiU find her rather 
countrified," said Charles Mignon. 

•'Acountrj^ girl sought by the Due d'H6rouville," 
remarked Canalis, dr3'l3\ 

" Ob ! " replied Monsieur Mignon, with the perfid- 
ious good-humor of a Southerner, "I leave my daughter 



Modeste Mignon. 215 

free. Dukes, princes, commoners, — they are all the 
same to me, even men of genius. I shall make no 
pledges, and whoever my Modeste chooses will be my 
son-in-law, or rather my son," he added, looking at 
La Briere. " It could not be otherwise. Madame 
de La Bastie is Crerman. She has never adopted our 
etiquette, and I let my two women lead me their own 
wa3\ I have always preferred to sit in the carriage 
rather than on the box. I can make a joke of all this i 
at present, for we have not 3^et seen the Due d'H^rou- \ 
ville, and I do not believe in marriages arranged bj'^j 
proxy, any more than I believe in choosing my daugh- 
ter's husband." 

^^That declaration is equally encouraging and dis- 
couraging to two young men who are searching for the 
philosopher's stone of happiness in marriage," said 
Canalis. 

*' Don't you consider it useful, necessary, and even 
politic to stipulate for perfect freedom of action for par- 
ents, daughters, and suitors? " asked Charles Mignon. 

Canalis, at a sign from La Briere, kept silence. The 
conversation presently became unimportant, and after 
a few turns round the garden the count retired, urging 
the visit of the two friends. 

*' That's our dismissal," cried Canalis ; " you saw it 
as plainly as I did. Well, in his place, I should not 
hesitate between the grand equerr}' and either of us, 
charming as we are." 

*' I don't think so," said La Briere. ' " I believe that 
frank soldier came here to satisfy his desire to see 
you, and to warn us of his neutralit}^ while receiving us 
in his house. Modeste, in love with your fame, and 



/ 



v^ 



216 ModMte Mignon. 

misled by my person, stands, as it were, between the 
real and the id eal, between poetex.^wd^ra|e. I am, 
unfortunately, the prose.'' 

^^ Grennain," said Canalis to the valet, who came to 
take away the coffee, ^' order the carriage in half an 
hour. We will take a drive before we go to the 
Chalet/' 



Modeste Mignon. 217 



CHAPTER XVm. 

▲ SPLENDID FIBST APPEARANCE. 

The two young men were equally impatient to se6 
Modeste, but La Briere dreaded the interview, while 
Canalis approached it with the confidence of self-con- 
ceit. The eagerness with which La Briere had met the 
father, and the flattery of his attention to the family 
pride of the ex-merchant, showed Canalis his own mal- 
adroitness, and determined him to select a special role. 
The great poet resolved to pretend indifference, though 
all the while displaying his seductive powers; to ap- 
pear to disdahi the young lady, and thus pique her self- 
love. Trained by the handsome Duchesse de Chaulieu, 
he was bound to be worthy of his reputation as a man 
who knew women, when, in fact, he_didjnot J^now them 
at^, —which is often the case with those who are the 
happy victims of an exclusive passion. While poor 
Ernest, gloomily ensconced in his corner of the caleche, 
gave way to the terrors of genuine love, and foresaw 
instinctively the anger, contempt, and disdain of an 
injured and offended young girl, Canalis was preparing 
himself, not less silently, like an actor making ready 
for an important part in a new play ; certainlj' neither 
of them presented the appearance of a happy man. 
Important interests were involved for Canalis. The 
mere suggestion of his desire to marry would bring 



218 Modeste Mignon. 

about a rupture of the tie which had bound him for the 
last tea years to the Duchesse de Chaulieu. Though 
he had covered the purpose of his journey with the vulgar 
pretext of needing rest, — in which, by the bye, women 
never believe, even when it is ta^ue, — his conscience 
troubled him somewhat; but the word "conscience" 
seemed so Jesuitical to La Briere that he shrugged his 
shoulders when the poet mentioned his scruples. 

^^ Your conscience, my friend, strikes me a0 nothing 
more nor less than a dread of losing the pleasures of 
vanity, and some very real advantages and habits by 
sacrificing the affections of Madame de Chaulieu ; for, 
if you were sure of succeeding with Modeste, you would 
renounce without the slightest compunction the wilted 
aftermath of a passion that has been mown and well- 
raked for the last eight years. If you simply mean 
that you are afraid of displeasing your protectress, should 
she find out the object of your stay here, I believe you. 
To renounce the duchess and yet not succeed at the 
Chalet is too heavy a risk. You take the anxiety of 
this alternative for remorse." 

*' You have no comprehensiort^pf feelings," said the 
poet, irritably, like a man who hears truth when he 
expects a compliment 

''That is what a bigamist should tell the jury," re- 
torted La Briere, laughing. 

This epigram made another disagreeable impression 
on Canalis. He began to think La Briere too witty and 
too free for a secretary. 

The arrival of an elegant caleche, driven by a coach- 
man in the Canalis livery, made the more excitement 
at the Chalet because the two suitors were expected. 



Modeste Mignon. 219 

and all the personages of this history were assembled 
to receive them, except the duke and Butscha. 

^^ Which is the poet?" asked Madame Latoumelle 
of Dumay in the embrasure of a window, where she 
stationed herself as soon as she heard the wheels. 

** The one who walks like a dmm-major," answered 
the lieutenant 

^'Ahl" said the notary's wife, examining Canalis, 
who was swinging his body like a man who knows he 
is being looked at The fault lay with the great lady 
who flattered him incessantly and spoiled him, — as all 
women older than their adorers invariably spoil and 
flatter them ; Canalis in his moral being was a sort of 
Narcissus. When a woman of a certain age wishes to 
attach a man forever, she begins by deifying his de- 
fects, so as to cut oft' all possibility of rivalry ; for a 
rival is never, at the first approach, aware of the super- 
fine flattery to which the man is accustomed. Cox- 
combs are the product of this feminine manoeuvre, 
when they are not fops by nature. Canalis, taken 
young by the handsome duchess, vindicated his aflec- 
tations to his own mind by telling himself that they 
pleased that grande dame^ whose taste was law. Such 
shades of character may be excessively faint, but it is 
improper for the historian not to point them out. For 
instance, Melchior possessed a talent for reading which 
was greatly admired, and much injudicious praise had 
given him a habit of exaggeration, which neither poets 
nor actors are willing to check, and which made people 
say of him (always through De Marsay) that he no 
longer declaimed, he bellowed his verses ; lengthening 
tiie sounds that he might listen to himself. In the 



^0 Modeste Mignon* 

slang of the green-room, Csnalis ^'dragged the time.** 
He was fond of exchanging glances with bis hearers, 
throwing himself into postures of self-complacency and 
practising those tricks of demeanor which actors call 
boUanfoires^^^tbe picturesqne phrase of an artistic 
people. Canalis had bis imitators, and was in fact the 
bead of a school of his kind. This habit of declama- 
tory chanting slightly aflbcted bis conversation, as we 
have seen in bis interview with Dumay. The moment 
the mind becomes finical the manners follow snit, and 
the great poet ended by studying bis demeanor, invent- 
ing attitudes, looking furtively at himself in mirrors, 
and suiting his discourse to the particular pose which 
be happened to have taken up. He was so preoccupied 
with the effect be wished to produce, that a practical 
joker, Blondet, had bet once or twice, and won the 
wager, that be could nonplus him at any moment by 
merely looking fixedly at his hair, or his boots, or the 
tails of his coat. 

These airs and graces, which started in life with a 
passport of flowery youth, now seemed all the more 
stale and old because Melchior himself was waning. 
Life in the world of fashion is quite as exhausting to 
men as it is to women, and perhaps the twenty years 
by which the duchess exceeded her lover's age, weighed 
more heavily upon him than upon her ; for to the eyes 
of the world she was always handsome, — without rouge, 
without wrinkles, and without heart. Alas ! neither 
men nor women have friends who are friendly enough 
to warn them of the moment when the fragrance of 
their modesty grows stale, when the caressing glance 
is but an echo of the stage, when the expression of the 



di'X' 



Modeste Mignan. 221 ^ 

face changes from sentiment to sentimentality, and the \/ 
artifices of the mind show their rusty edges. Genius , 
alone renews its skin like a snake ; and in the matter 
of charm, as in everything else, it is only the heart that 
never grows old. People who have hearts are simplei 
in all their ways. Now Canalis, as we know, had 
shrivelled heart He misused the beauty of his glance h^ 
giving it, without adequate reason, the fixity that come 
to the eyes in meditation. In short, applause was 
him a business, in which he was perpetually on the loo^ 
out for gain. His style of paying compliments, chang- 
ing to superficial people, seemed insulting to others ei 
more delicacy^ by its triteness and the cool assurance pf 
its cut-and-dried flattery. As a matter of fact, Mel- 
chior lied like a courtier. He remarked without blush- 
ing to the Due de Chaulieu, who made no impression 
whatever when he was obliged to address the Cham- 
ber as minister of foreign affairs, ^^Your excellency 
was truly sublime ! " Many men like Canalis are purged 
of their affectations by the administration of non-success 
in little doses. 

These defects, slight in the gilded salons of the fau- 
bourg Saint-Germain, where every one contributes his 
or her quota of absurdity, and where these particular 
forms of exaggerated speech and affected diction — 
mi^iloquence, if you please to call it so — are sur- 
rounded by excessive luxury and sumptuous toilettes, 
which are to some extent their excuse, were certain 
to be far more noticed in the provinces, whose own 
absurdities are of a totally different type. Canalis, 
by nature over-strained and artificial, could not change 
his form ; in fact, he had had time to grow stiff in the 



I 



222 Modeste Mignon. 

mould into which the duchess had poured him ; more- 
over, he was thoroughlj- Parisian, or, if 3'ou prefer it, 
truly French. The Parisian is amazed that everything 
everywhere is not as it is in Paris ; the Frenchman, as 
it is in France. Good taste, on the contrary, demands 
that we adapt ourselves to the customs of foreigners 
without losing too much of our own character, — as did 
Alcibiades, that model of a gentleman. True grace is 
elastic ; it lends itself to circumstances ; it is in har- 
mony with all social centres ; it wears a robe of simple 
material in the streets, noticeable only by its cut, in 
preference to the feathers and flounces of middle-class 
vulgarity. Now Caualis, instigated by a woman who 
loved herself much more than she loved him, wished to 
lay down the law and be, everywhere, such as he him- 
self might see fit to be. He believed he carried his own 
public with him wherever he went, — an error shared 
by several of the great men of Paris. 

While the poet made a studied and effective entrance 
into the salon of the Chalet, La Br iere sli p ped in behind. 
\ ^im like a person of nq^^^coujit. 

*' Ha! do I see my soldier?" said Canalis, perceiv- 
ing Dumay, after addressing a compliment to Madame 
Mignon, and bowing to the other women. " Your anx- 
ieties are relieved, are the}'^ not?" he said, offering his 
hand effusivel}' ; " I comprehend them to their fullest 
extent after seeing mademoiselle. I spoke to you of 
terrestrial creatures, not of angels." 

All present seemed by their attitudes to ask the 
meaning of this speech. 

" I shall always consider it a triumph," resumed the 
poet, observing that everybody wished for an expla- 



Modeste Mignon, 223 

nation, ^' to have stirred to emotion one of those men of 
iron whom Napoleon had the eye to find and make the 
supporting piles on which he tried to build an empire, too 
colossal to be lasting : for such structures time alone is 
the cement. But this triumph — wh}' should I be proud 
of it ? — I count for nothing. It was the triumph of ideas 
over facts. Your battles, my dear Monsieur Dumay, 
youi heroic charges, Monsieur le comte, nay, war itself 
was the form in which Napoleon's idea clothed itself. 
Of all of these things, what remains? The sod that 
covers them knows nothing; harvests come and go 
without revealing their resting-place; were it not for 
the historian, the writer, ftiturity would have no knowl- 
edge of those heroic days. Therefore your fifteen years 
of war are now ideas and nothing more ; that which 
preserves the Empire forever is the poem that the poets 
make of them. A nation that can win such battles 
must know how to sing them.*' 

Canalis paused, to gather by a glance that ran round 
the circle the tribute of amazement which he expected 
of provincials. 

** You must be aware, monsieur, of the regret I feel 
at not seeing you," said Madame Mignon, " since you 
compensate me with the pleasure of hearing 3^ou." 

Modeste, determined to think Canalis sublime, sat 
motionless with amazement; the embroidery slipped 
ftom her fingers, which held it only by the needleful of 
thread. 

^^ Modeste, this is Monsieur Ernest de La Briere. 
Monsieur Ernest, my daughter," said the count, think- 
ing the secretary too much in the background. 

The young giil bowed coldly, giving Ernest a glance 



v; 



\. 



224 Modeste Migiwn. 

which was meant to prove to every one present that she 
saw him for the first time. 

^^ Pardon me, monsieur," she said withoat blushing; 
'^ the great* admiration I feel for the greatest of our 
poets is, in the eyes of my Mends, a sufficient excuse 
for seeing only him." 

The pure, fresh voice, with accents like that of Made- 
moiselle Mars, charmed the poor secretary, already 
dazzled by Modeste's beauty, and in his sudden sur- 
prise he answered by a phrase that would have been 
sublime, had it been true. 

*' He is my friend," he said. 

^< Ah, then you do pardon me," she replied. 

*^ He is more, than a fHend," cried Canalis taking 
Ernest by the shoulder and leaning upon it like 
Alexander on Hephsestion, ^^we love eadi other as 
though we were brothers — " 

Madame -Latournelle cut short the poet's speech by 
pointing to Ernest and saying aloud to her husband, 
^^ Surely that is the gentleman we saw at church." 

" Why not?" said Charles Mignon, quickly, observ- 
ing that Ernest reddened. 

Modeste coldly took up her embroidery. 

" Madame may be right ; I have been twice in Havre 
lately," replied La Briere, sitting down by Dumay. 

Canalis, charmed with Modeste's beauty, mistook the 
admiration she expressed, and flattered himself he had 
succeeded in producing his desired effects. 

^^ I should think a man without heart, if he had no 
devoted friend near him," said Modeste, to pick up 
the conversation interrupted by Madame Latoumelle's 
awkwardness. 



Modeste Mignon. 225 

*' Mademoiselle, Ernest's devotion makes me almost 
think myself worth something," said Canalis ; ^^ for my 
dear P3'lades is full of talent ; he was the right hand of 
the greatest minister we have had since the peace. 
Though he holds a fine position, he is good enough to 
be my tutor in the science of politics ; he teaches me 
to conduct affairs and feeds me with his experience, 
when all the while he might aspire to a much better 
situation. Oh 1 he is worth far more than I." At a 
gesture from Modeste he continued gracefully : "Yes, 
the poetry that I express he carries in his heart ; and if 
I speak thus openly before him it is because he has the 
modesty of a nun." 

" Enough; oh, enough ! " cried La Briere, who hardly 
knew which wa}' to look. " My dear Canalis, you re- 
mind me of a mother who is seeking to marry off her 
daughter." 

" How is it, monsieur," said Charles Mignon, ad- 
dressing Canalis, " that you can even think of becom- 
ing a political character? " 

'' It is abdication," said Modeste, *' for a poet; poli- 
tics are the resource of matter-of-fact men." 

"Ah, mademoiselle, the rostrum is to-day the great- 
est theatre of the world ; it has succeeded the tourna- 
ments of chivalry, it is now the meeting-place for all 
intellects, just as the army has been the rallying-point 
of courage." 

Canalis stuck spurs into his charger and talked for 
ten minutes on political life : " Poetry was but a pref- 
ace to the statesman." " To-day the orator has be- 
come a sublime reasoner, the shepherd of ideas." " A 
poet may point the wa}- to nations or individuals, but 

15 



226 Modeste Mignon* 

can he ever cease to be himself? " He quoted Cbateaa- 
briand and declared he would one day be greater on the 
political side than on the literary. ''The forum of 
France was to be the pharos of humanity/' '*Oral 
battles supplanted fields of battle : there were sessions 
of the Chamber finer than any Austerlitz, and orators 
were seen to be as lofty as generals ; they spent their 
lives, their courage, their strength, as freely as those 
who went to war." ** Speech was surely one of the 
most prodigal outlets of the vital fluid that man had 
ever known," etc. 

This improviBation of modem commonplaces, clothed 
in sonorous phrases and newly invented words, and in- 
tended to prove that the Comte de Canalis was becom- 
ing one of the glo|ies of the French government, made 
a deep impression upon the notary and Gobenheim, and 
upon Madame Latournelle and Madame Mignon. Mo- 
deste looked as though she were at the theatre, in an 
attitude of enthusiasm for an actor, — very much like 
that of Ernest toward herself; for though the secre- 
tary knew all these high-sounding phrases by heart, he 
listened through the ej-es, as it were, of the 3'oung girl, 
and grew more and more madly in love with her. To 
this true lover, Modeste was eclipsing all the Modestes 
whom he had created as he read her letters and answered 
them. 

This visit, the length of which was predetermined by 
Canalis, careful not to allow his admirers a chance to 
get surfeited, ended by an invitation to dinner on the 
following Monday. 

" We shall not be at the Chalet," said the Comte de 
La Bastie. '^ Dumay will have sole possession of it. 



Modeste Mignon. 227 

I return to the yilla, having bought it back under a 
deed of redemption within six months, which I have 
to-day signed with Monsieur Vilquin." 

"I hope," said Dumay, "that Vilquin will not be 
able to return you the sum you have just lent him, and 
that the villa will remain yours." 

" It is an abode in keeping with your fortune," said 
Canalis. 

^ You mean the fortune that I am supposed to have," 
replied Charles Mignon, hastily. 

"It would be too sad," said Canalis turning to 
Modeste with a charming little bow, " if this Madonna 
were not framed in a manner worthy of her divine 
perfections." 

That was the only thing Canalis said to Modeste. He 
affected not to look at her, and behaved like a man 
whom all idea of marriage was interdicted. 

" Ahl my dear Madame Mignon," cried the notary's 
wife, as soon as the gravel was heard to grit under the 
feet of the Parisians, " what an intellect ! " 

" Is he rich? — that is the question," said Gobenheim. 

Modeste was at the window, not losing a single 
movement of the great poet, and paying no attention 
to his companion. When Monsieur Mignon returned 
to the salon, and Modeste, having received a last bow 
from the two friends as the carriage turned, went back 
to her seat, a weighty discussion took place, such as 
provincials invariably' hold over Parisians after a first 
interview. Gobenheim repeated his phrase, "Is he 
rich?" as a chorus to the songs of praise sung by 
Madame Latournelle, Modeste, and her mother. 

"Rich!" exclaimed Modeste; "what can that sig- 



-I 



228 Modefte Miffnon. 

nify I Do 3'ou not see that Monsieur de Canalis is one 
. of those men who are destined for the highest places in 
I the State. He has more than fortune ; he possesses 
J that which gives fortune." 

'^ He will be minister or ambassador," said Monsieur 
Mignon. 

''That won't hinder tax-payers from having to pay 
the costs of his funeral," remarked the notary. 

" How so?" asked Cliarles Mignon. 

''He strikes me as a man who will waste all the 
fortunes with whose gifts Mademoiselle Modcste so 
liberally endows him," answered Latournelle. 

.'^Modeste can't avoid being liberal to a poet who 
called her a Madonna," said Duma}^ sneering, and 
faithful to the repulsion with which Canalis had origi- 
nally inspired him. 

Gobenheim arranged the whist-table with all the 
more persistency because, since the return of Monsieur 
Mignon, Latournelle and Dumay had allowed them- 
selves to play for ten sous points. 

"Well, my little darling," said the father to the 
daughter in the embrasure of a window. " Admit that 
papa thinks of everything. If yoxi send j^our orders 
this evening to your former dressmaker in Paris, and 
all 3'our other furnishing people, you shall show yourself 
eight days hence in all the splendor of an heiress. 
Meantime we will instal ourselves in the villa. You 
already have a pretty horse, now order a habit ; you 
owe that amount of civility to the grand equerry." 

" All the more because there will be a number of us 
to ride," said Modeste, who was recovering the colors 
of health. 



Modeste Mignon. 229 

"The secretary did not say much," remarked 
Madame Mignon. 

" A little fool," said Madame Latoumelle ; "the poet 
had an attentive word for everybody. He thanked 
Monsieur Latoumelle for his help in choosing the 
house; and said he must have taken counsel with a 
woman of taste. But the other looked as gloomy.^&ju 
Spania rd, and kept his eyes fixed on Modeeite as though 
he would like to swallow her whole. If he had even 
looked at me I should have been afraid of him." 

^' He had a pleasant voice," said Madame Mignon. 

*'No doubt he came to Havre to inquire about the 
Mignons in the interests of his friend the poet," said 
Modeste, looking furtively at her father. "It was cer- 
tainly he whom we saw in church." 
_ Madame Dumay and Monsieur and Madame Latour- 
nelle, accepted this as the natural explanation of 
Ernest's journey. 



230 Modeste Mignon. 



CHAPTER XIX. 

OF WHICH THE AUTHOB THINKS ▲ GOOD DEAL. 

" Do you know, Ernest/* cried Canalis, when they 
had driven a short distance from the hoase, ^' I don't 
see any marriageable woman in society in Paris wlio 
compares with that adorable girl." 

"Ah, that ends it!" replied Ernest. "She loves 
you, or she will love you if yo\x desire it. Your fame 
won half the battle. Well, you may now have it all 
your own way. You shall go there alone in future. 
Modeste despises me; she is right to do so; and I 
don't see any reason why I should condemn myself to 
see, to love, desire, and adore that which I can never 
I possess." 

After a few consoling remarks, dashed with his own 
satisfaction at having made a new version of Caesar's 
phrase, Canalis divulged a desire to break with the 
Duchesse de Chaulieu. La Bri^re, totally unable to 
keep up the conversation, made the beauty of the night 
an excuse to be set down, and then rushed like one 
possessed to the seashore, where he stayed till past 
ten, in a half-demented state, walking hurriedlj' up and 
down, talking aloud in broken sentences, sometimes 
standing still or sitting down, without noticing the 
uneasiness of two custom-house officers who were on 
the watch. After loving Modeste's wit and intellect 



Modeste Mignon. 231 

and her aggressive frankness, he now Joined adoration 
of her beauty — that is to say, love without reason, love 
inexplicable — to all the other reasons which had drawn 
him ten days earlier, to the church in Ha\Te. 

He returned to the Chalet, where the Pyrenees 
hounds barked at him. till he was forced to relinquish 
the pleasure of gazing at Modeste's windows. In love, 
such things are of no more account to the lover than 
the work which is covered by the last layer of color is 
to an artist ; yet they make up the whole of love, just as 
the hidden toil is the whole of art. Out of them arise the 
great painter and the true lover whom the woman and 
the public end, sometimes too late, by adoring. 

"Well then!" he cried aloud, "I will sta3% I will 
suffer, I will love her for myself only, in solitude. Mo- 
deste shall be my sun, my life ; I will breathe with her 
breath, rejoice in her joys and bear her griefs, be she 
even the wife of that egoist, Canalis." 

" That's what I call loving, monsieur," said a voice 
which came from a shrub by the side of the road. 
" Ha, ha, so all the world is in love with Mademoiselle 
deLaBastie?" 

And Butscha suddenly appeared and looked at La 
Briere. La Bridre checked his anger when, by the 
light of the moon, he saw the dwarf, and he made a 
few steps without replying. 

** Soldiers who serve in the same company ought to 
be good comrades," remarked Butscha. '' You don't 
love Canalis; neither do L" 

"^He is my friend," replied Ernest. 

" Ha, you are the little secretary?" 

*' You are to know, monsieur, that I am no man's 



232 ModeHe Migmm. 

secretaiy. I have the honor to be of ooansel to a su- 
preme court of this kingdom." 

^' I have the honor to salute Monsieur de La Briere," 
said Butscha. '^ I myself, have the honor to be head 
clerk to Latoumelle, chief councillor of Havre, and my 
position is a better one than jours. Yes, I have had 
the happiness of seeing Mademoiselle Modeste de La 
Bastie nearly every evening for the last four years, and 
I expect to live near her, as a king's servant lives in 
the Tuileries. If they offered me the throne of Russia 
I should answer, ^ I love the sun too well.' Is n't that 
telling 3'ou, monsieur, that I care more for her than for 
myself? I am looking after her interests with the most 
honorable intentions. Do you believe that the proud 
Duchesse de Chaulieu would cast a favorable e^^e on the 
happiness of Madame de Canalis if her waiting-woman, 
who is in love with Monsieur Germain, not liking that 
charming valet's absence in Havre, were to say to her 
mistress while brushing her hair — " 

" How do you know about all this? " said La Briere, 
interrupting Butscha. 

"In the first place, I am clerk to a notary," an- 
swered Butscha. "But haven't you se^n my hump? 
It is full of resources, monsieur. I have made myself 
cousin to Mademoiselle Philoxene Jacmin, bom at 
Honfleur, where my mother was born, a Jacmiu, — 
there are eight branches of the Jacmins at Honfleur. 
So my cousin Philoxene, enticed by the bait of a highly 
improbable fortune, has told roe a good many things." 

" The duchess is vindictive? " said La Briere. 

"Vindictive as a queen, Philoxene says; she has 
never yet forgiven the duke for being nothing more 



Modeste Mignon. 233 

than her husband," replied Butscha. " She hates as 
she loves. I know all aboot her character, her tastes, 
her toilette, her religion, and her manners ; for Philox- 
ene stripped her for me, soul and corset. I went to 
the opera expressly to see her, and I did n't grudge the 
ten francs it cost me — I don't mean the play. If my 
imaginary cousin had not told me the duchess had seen 
her fifty summers, I should have thought I was over- 
generous in giving her thirty ; she has never known a 
winter, that duchess ! " 

** Yes," said La Briere, " she is a cameo — preserved 
because it is stone. Canalis would be in a bad way if 
the duchess were to find out what he is doing here ; and 
I hope, monsieur, that j'ou will go no further in this 
business of spying, which is unworthy of an honest 
man." 

"Monsieur," said Butscha, proudly; "for me Mo- 
deste is my country. I do not sp}' ; I foresee, I take 
precautions. The duchess will come here if it is desir- 
able, or she will stay tranquilly where she is, according 
to what I judge best." 

**You?" 

"And how, pray?" 

*' Ha, that 's it ! " said the little hunchback, plucking 
a blade of grass. " See here ! this herb believes that 
men build palaces for it to grow in ; it wedges its way 
between the closest blocks of marble, and brings them 
down, just as the masses forced into the edifice of feu- 
dalit}* have brought it to the ground. The power of the 
feeble life that can creep everywhere is greater than that 
of the might}' behind their cannons. I am one of three 



\ 



234 Modeste Mignon. 

who have sworn that Modeste shall be happy, and we 
would sell our honor for her. Adieu, monsieur. If you 
truly love Mademoiselle de La Bastie, forget this con- 
versation and shake hands with me, for I think you 've 
got a heart I longed to see the Chalet, and I got here 
just as 87he was putting out her light. I saw the dc^s 
rush at you, and I overheard your words, and that is 
why I take the liberty of sa3ing we serve in the same 
regiment — that of royal devotion.'' 

^' Mousieui^' said La Briere, wringing the hunch- 
back's hand, ^^ would you have the friendliness to tell 
me if Mademoiselle Modeste ever loved any one wUh 
love before she wrote to Canalis?" 
*---. ^' Oh I " exclaimed Butscha, in an altered voice ; ^ that 
thought is an insult. And even now, who knows if she 
really loves? does she know herself? She is enamoured 
of genius, of the soul and intellect of that seller of 
verses, that literary quack ; but she will study him, we 
shall all study him ; and I know how to make the man's 
real character peep out from under that turtle-shell of 
fine manners, — we '11 soon see the petty little head of 
his ambition and his vanity ! " cried Butscha, rubbing 
his hands. ^' So, unless mademoiselle is desperately 
taken with him — " 

^^ Oh ! she was seized with admiration when she saw 
him, as if he were something marvellous," exclaimed 
La Briere, letting the secret of his jealous}^ escape him. 

'* If he is a loyal, honest fellow, and loves her ; if he 
is worthy of her; if he renounces his duchess," said 
Butscha, — *' then I '11 manage the duchess ! Here, my 
dear sir, take this road, and you will get home in ten 
minutes." 



Modeste Mgnon. 285 

But as they parted, Butscha tamed back and hailed 
poor Ernest, who, as a true lover, would gladly have 
stayed there all night talking of Modeste. 

^ Monsiear," said Butscha, ^' I have not yet had the 
honor of seeing our great poet. I am very curious to 
observe that magnificent phenomenon in the exercise of 
his functions. Do me the favor to bring him to the 
Chalet to-morrow evening, and stay as long as possible ; 
for it takes more than an hour for a man to show him- 
self for what he is. I shall be the first to see if he 
loves, if he can love, or if he ever will love Mademoi- 
selle Modeste." 

** You are very young to — " 

^^ — to be a professor," said Butscha, cutting short 
La Briere. ^^ Ha, monsieur, deformed folks are born 
a hundred years old. And besides, a sick man who 
has long been sick, knows more than his doctor; he 
knows the disease, and that is more than can be said 
for the best of doctors. Well, so it is with a man who 
cherishes a woman in his heart when the woman is 
forced to disdain him for his ugliness or his deformity ; 
he ends by knowing so much of love that he becomes 
seductive, just as the sick man recovers his health; 
stupidity alone is incurable. I have had neither father 
nor mother since I was six years old ; I am now twenty 
five. Public charity has been my mother, the procu- 
reur du roi my father. Oh! don't be troubled," he 
added, seeing Ernest's gesture; ^^ I am much more 
lively than my situation. Well, for the last six years, 
ever since a woman's eye first told me I had no right to 
love, I do love, and I study women. I began with the 
ugly ones, for it is best to take the bull by the hoins. 



236 Modeste Miffnan. 

So I took my master's wife, who has certainly been an 
angel to me, for my first study. Perhaps I did wrong ; 
but I could n't help it. I passed her through my alem- 
bic and what did I find? this thought, crouching at the 
bottom of her heart, ' I am not so ugly as they think 
me ; ' and if a man were to work upon that thought he 
could bring her to the edge of the abyss, pious as 
she is." 

*' And have you studied Modeste? " 

" I thought I told you," replied Butscha, " that my 
life belongs to her, just as France belongs to the king. 
Do 3'ou now understand what you called my sp3'ing 
in Paris? No one but me really knows what nobility, 
what pride, what devotion, what mysterious grace, what 
unwearying kindness, what true religion, gayety, wit, 
delicacy, knowledge, and courtesy there are in the soul 
and in the heart of that adorable creature ! " 

Butscha drew out his handkerchief and wiped his 
eyes, and La Briere pressed his hand for a long time. 

^' I live in the sunbeam of her existence ; it comes 
fh)m her, it is absorbed in me; that is how we are 
united, — as nature is to God, by the Light and by 
the Word. Adieu, monsieur ; never in my life have I 
talked in this way ; but seeing you beneath her win- 
dows, I felt in my heart that you loved her as I love 
her." 

Without waiting for an answer Butscha quitted the 
poor lover, into whose heart his words had put an inex- 
pressible balm. Ernest resolved to make a friend of 
him, not suspecting that the chief object of the clerk's 
loquacit}' was to gain communication with some one 
connected with Caualis. £rnest was rocked to sleep 



Modeste Mignon. 237 

that night by the ebb and flow of thoughts and resolu- 
tions and plans for his future conduct, whereas Canalis 
slept the sleep of the conqueror, which is the sweetest 
of slumbers after that of the Just. 

At breakfast next morning, the friends agreed to 
spend the evening of the following day at the Chalet 
and initiate themselves into the delights of provincial 
whist. To get rid of the day they ordered their horses, 
purchased by Germain at a large price, and started on 
a voyage of discovery round the countr}^ which was 
quite as unknown to them as China ; for the most for- 
eign thing to Frenchmen in France is France itself. 

By dint of reflecting on his position as an unfortunate 
and despised lover, Ernest went through something of 
the same process as Modeste's first letter had forced 
upon him. Though sorrow is said to develop virtue, 
it only develops it in virtuous persons ; that cleaning- 
out of the conscience takes place only in persons who are 
by nature clean. La Bri^re vowed to endure his suffer- 
ings in Spartan silence, to act worthily, and give way 
to no baseness ; while Canalis, fascinated by the enor- 
mous doty was telling himself to take every means of 
captivating the heiress. Selfishness and devotion, the 
key-notes of the two characters, therefore took, by the 
action of a moral law which is often ver}- odd in its 
effects, certain measures that were contraiy to their re- 
' spective natures. The selfish man put on self-abnega- 
tion ; the man who thought chiefl}- of others took refuge 
on the Aventinus of pride. That phenomenon is often 
seen in political life. Men frequently turn their char- 
acters wrong side out, and it sometimes happens that 
the public is unable 1x> tell which is the right side. 



238 Modeste Mignon, 

After dinner the two friends heard of the arrival of 
the grand equerr^^, who was presented at the Chalet the 
same evening bj' Latoamelle. Mademoiselle d'H^rou- 
ville had contrive to wound that worthy man by send- 
ing a footman to tell him to come to her, instead of 
sending her nephew in person ; thus depriving the no- 
tary of a distinguished visit he would certainly have 
talked of for the rest of his natural life. So Latournelle 
curtly informed the grand equerry, when he proposed to 
drive him to the Chalet, that he was engaged to take 
Madame Latournelle. Guessing from the little man's 
sulky manner that there was some blunder to repair, 
the duke said graciously: — 

'^ Then I shall have the pleasure, if you will allow 
me, of taking Madame Latournelle also." 

Disregarding Mademoiselle d'Herouville's haughty 
shrug, the duke left the room with the notary. Madame 
Latournelle, half-crazed with joy at seeing the gorgeous 
carriage at her door, witii footmen in royal livery letting 
down the steps, was too agitated on hearing that the 
grand equerry had called for her, to find her gloves, her 
parasol, her absurdity', or her usual air of pompous 
dignity. Once in the carriage, however, and while 
expressing confused thanks and civilities to the little 
duke, she suddenly exclaimed, from a thought in her 
kind heart, — 

" But Butscha, where is he? " 

^* Let us take Butscha," said the duke, smiling. 

When the people on the quays, attracted in groups 
by the splendor of the royal equipage, saw the funny 
spectacle, the three little men with the spare gigantic 
woman, they looked at one another and laughed. 



Modeste Mignxm. 239 

<^ If you melt all three together, they might make 
one man fit to mate with that big cod-fish," said a 
sailor from Bordeaux. 

** Is there an^ other thing you would like to take with 
yon, madame?" asked the duke, jestingly, while the 
footman waited his orders. 

^^ No, monseigneur," she replied, turning scarlet and 
looking at her husband as much as to say, ^^ What did 
I do wrong?" 

^' Monsieur le due honors me by considering that 
I am a thing," said Butscha ; ^' a poor clerk is usually 
thought to be a nonentity." 

Though this was said with a laugh, the duke colored 
and did not answer. Great people are to blame for 
joking with their social inferiors. Jesting is a game, 
and games presuppose equality; it is to obviate any 
inconvenient results of this temporary equality that 
players have the right, after the game is over, not to 
recognize each other. 

The visit of the grand equerry had the ostensible 
excuse of an important piece of business ; namely, the 
retrieval of an immense tract of waste land left by the 
sea between the mouths of the two rivers, which tract 
had just been adjudged by the Council of State to the 
house of H^rouvilie. The matter was nothing less 
than putting fiood-gates with double bridges, draining 
three or four hundred acres, cutting canals, and laying 
out roadways. When tlie duke had explained the con- 
dition of the land, Charles Mignon remarked that time 
must be allowed for the soil, which was still moving, to 
settle and grow solid in a natural way. 

*' Time, which has providentially enriched your house. 



240 Modeste Migwm. 

Monsieur le due, can alone complete the work,** he said, 
in conclusion. " It would be prudent to let fifty years 
elapse before 3'ou reclaim the land." 

'*Do not let that be your final word, Monsieur le 
oomte," said the duke. '^ Come to Herouville and see 
things for yourself." 

Charles Mignon replied that every capitalist should 
take time to examine into such matters with a cool 
head, thus giving the duke a pretext for his visits to 
the Chalet. The sight of Modeste made a lively im- 
pression on the youug man, and he asked the favor of 
receiving her at Herouville with her father, saying that 
his sister and his Aunt had heard much of her, and 
wished to make her acquaintance. On this the count 
proposed to present his daughter to those ladies him- 
self, and invited the whole party to dinner on the daj*^ 
of his return to the villa. The duke accepted the invi- 
tation. The blue ribbon, the title, and above all, the 
ecstatic glances of the noble gentleman had an effect 
upon Modeste ; but she appeared to great advantage in 
carriage, dignity, and conversation. The duke with- 
drew reluctantl}', carrying with him an invitation to 
visit the Chalet every evening, — an invitation based on 
the impossibility of a courtier of Charles X. existing 
for a single evening without his rubber. 

The following evening, therefore, Modeste was to 
see all three of her lovers. No matter what 3'oung 
girls may say, and though the logic of the heart may 
lead them to sacrifice everything to preference, it is 
extremely' flattering to their self-love to see a number 
of rival adorers around them, — distinguished or cele- 
brated men, or men of ancient lineage, — all endeavor- 



Modeste Mignon. 241 

iDg to shine and to please. Suffer as Modeste may in 
general estimation, it must be told she subsequently 
admitted that the sentiments expressed in her letters 
paled before the pleasure of setting three such different 
minds at war with one another, — three men who, taken 
separately, would each have done honor to the most 
exacting family. Yet this luxury of self-love was 
checked by a misanthropical spitefulness, resulting 
from the terrible wound she had received, — although 
by this time she was beginning to think of that wound 
as a disappointment onl3\ So when her father said to 
her, laughing, ^^ Well, Modeste, do you want to be a 
duchess?" she answered, with a mocking curtsey, — 

** Sorrows have made me philosophical." 

^^Do you mean to be only a baroness?" asked 
Butscha. 

** Or a viscountess?" said her father. 

" How could that be? " she asked quickty. 

^^If you accept Monsieur de La Briere, he has 
enough merit and influence to obtain permission from 
the king to bear my titles and arms." 

^^Oh, if it comes to disguising himself, Aa will not 
make any difficulty," said Modeste, scornfully. 

Butscha did not understand this epigram, whose 
meaning could only be guessed by Monsieur and Ma- 
dame Mignon and Dnmay. 

*^ Wlien it is a question of marriage, all men disguise 
themselves," remarked Madame Latournelle, ^^and 
women set them the example. I 've heard it said ever 
since I came into the world that ' Monsieur this or 
Mademoiselle that has made a good marriage,' — mean- 
ing that the other side had made a bad one." 

If) 



242 Modeste Mignon. 

"Marriage/* said Butscha, "is like a lawsuit; 
there 's always one side discontented. If one dupes 
the other, certainly half the husbands in the world are 
playing a comedy at the expense of the other half." 

"From which you conclude, Sieur Butscha?" in- 
<j[uired Modeste. 

" To p^y the utmost attention to the manoeuvres of 
the enemy," answered the clerk. 

"What did I tell you, my darling?" said Charles 
Mignon, alluding to their conversation on the seashore. 

" Men play as man}' parts to get married as mothers 
make their daughters plaj' to get rid of them," said 
Latournelle. 

" Then you approve of stratagems?" said Modeste. 

" On both sides," cried Gohenheira, " and that brings 
it even." 

This conversation was carried on by fits and starts, 
as they say, in the intervals of cutting and dealing the 
cards ; and it soon turned chiefly on the merits of the 
Due d'Herouville, who was thought very good-looking 
by little Latournelle, little Dumay, and little Butscha. 
Without the foregoing discussion on the lawfulness of 
matrimonial tricks, the reader might possibly find 
the forthcoming account of the evening so impatiently 
awaited by Butscha, somewhat too long. 

Desplein, the famous surgeon, arrived the next morn* 
ing, and stayed only long enough to send to Havre for 
fresh horses and have them put-to, which took about 
an hour. After examining Madame Mignon's eyes, 
he decided that she could recover her sight, and fixed 
a suitable time, a month later, to perform the opera- 
tion. This important consultation took place before 



Modeste Mignon. 243 

the assembled members of the Chalet, who stood trem- 
bling and expectant to hear the verdict of the prince of 
science. That illustrious member of the Academy of 
Sciences put about a dozen brief questions to the blind 
woman as he examined her eyes in the strong light 
from a window. Modeste was amazed at the value 
which a man so celebrated attached to time, when she 
saw the travelling-carriage piled with books which the 
great sui^eon proposed to read during the journey; 
for he had lefb Paris the evening before, and had 
spent the night in sleeping and travelling. The ra- 
pidity and clearness of Desplein's judgment on each 
answer made by Madame Mignon, his succinct tone, 
his decisive manner, gave Modeste her first real idea of 
a man of genius. She perceived the enormous differ- 
ence between a second-rate man, like Canalis, and Des- 
plein, who was even more than a superior man. A man 
of genius finds in the consciousness of his talent and in 
the solidity of his fame an arena of his own, where his 
legitimate pride can expand and exercise itself without 
interfering with others. Moreover, his perpetual struggle 
with men and things leave him no time for the coxcombry 
of fashionable genius, which makes haste to gather in 
the harvests of a fugitive season, and whose vanit}- and 
self-love are as petty and exacting as a custom-house 
which levies tithes on all that comes in its wa3\ 

Modeste was the more enchanted by this great prac- 
tical genius, because he was evidently' charmed with 
'the exquisite beaut}' of Modeste, — he, through whose 
hands so man}' women passed, and who had long since 
examined the sex, as it were, with magnifier and 
scalpel. 



244 Modeste Mignon. 

'* It would be a sad pity," he said, with an air of 
gallantry which he occasionally pat on, and which con- 
trasted with his assumed brusqueness, *' if a mother were 
deprived of the sight of so charming a daughter." 

Modeste insisted on serving the simple breakfast 
which was all the great surgeon would accept. She 
accompanied her father and Dumay to the carnage 
stationed at the garden-gate, and said to Desplein at 
parting, her eyes shining with hope, '^ 

" And will my dear mamma really see me?" 

" Yes, my little sprite, I '11 promise you that," he 
answered, smiling; *'and I am incapable of deceiving 
you, for I, too, have a daughter." 

The horses started and carried him off as he uttered 
the last words with unexpected grace and feeling. 
Nothing is more charming than the peculiar unex- 
pectedness of persons of talent. 



Modeste Mignon* 245 



CHAPTER XX. 

THE POET DOES HIS EXEBCISES. 

This Tisit of the great snrgeon was the event of the 
day, and it left a laminous trace in Modeste's soul. 
The yoang enthusiast ardently admired the man whose 
life belonged to others, and in whom the habit of 
studying physical suffering had destroyed the mani- 
festations of egoism. That evening, when Gobenheim, 
the Latoumelles, and Butscha, Canalis, Ernest, and the 
Due d'Herouville were gathered in the salon, they all 
congratulated the Mignon family on the hopes which 
Desplein encouraged. . The conversation, ii^ which the 
Modesto of her letters was once more in the ascendant, 
turned naturally on the man whose genius, unfortu- 
nately for his fame, was appreciable only by the fa- 
culty and men of science. Gobenheim contributed a 
phrase which is the sacred chrism of genius as in- 
terpreted in these days by public economists and 
bankers, — 

** He makes a mint of money.** 

*' They say he is very grasping," added Canalis. 

The praises which Modeste showered on Desplein 
had annoyed the poet. Vanity acts like a woman, — 
they both think they are defrauded when love or praise 
is bestowed on others. Voltaire was jealous of the wit 
of a ix>ue whom Paris admired for two days ; and even 



246 Modcite Mignon. 

a dachess takes offence at a look bestowed upon her 
maid. The avarice excited by these two sentiments is 
such that a fraction of them given to the poor is 
thought robbery. 

^^ Do you think, monsieur," said Modeste, smiling, 
*' that we should judge geniusby ordinary standards? " 

'^ Perhaps we ought first of all to define the man of 
genius," replied Canalis. " One of the conditions of 
genius is invention, — invention of a form, a sj'stem, a 
force. Napoleon was an inventor, apart from his other 
conditions of genius. He invented his method of mak- 
ing war. Walter Scott is an inventor, Linnaeus is an 
inventor, Geoffrey Saint-Hilaire and Cuvier are invent- 
ors. Such men are men of genius of the first rank. 
The}- renew, increase, or modify both science and art.' 
But Desplein is merely a man whose vast talent consists ' 
in properly appljing laws already known ; in obser^dng,! 
by means of a natural gift, the limits laid down for- 
each temperament, and the time appointed by Naturej 
for an operation. He has not founded, like Hippocrates,' 
the science itself. He has invented no system, as did 
Galen, Broussais, and Rasori. He is merely an execu- 
tive genius, like Moscheles on the piano, Faganini on 
the violin, or Farinelli on his own larjnx, — men who 
have developed enormous faculties, but who have not 
created music. You must permit me to discriminate 
between Beethoven and la Catalani : to one belongs the 
immortal crown of genius and of martyrdom, to the 
other innumerable five-franc pieces ; one we can paj* in 
coin, but the world remains throughout all time a debtor 
to the other. Each day increases our debt to Moliere^ 
but Baron's comedies have been overpaid." 



Modeate Mignon. 247 

" I think you make the prerogative of ideas too ex*- 
elusive," said Ernest de La Bridre, in a quiet and 
melodious voice, which formed a sudden contrast to the 
peremptory tones of the poet, whose flexible organ had 
abandoned its caressing notes for the strident and 
magisterial voice of the rostrum. '^Genius must be 
estimated according to its utility ; and Farmentier, who 
brought potatoes into general use, Jacquart, the in- 
ventor of silk looms ; Papin, who first discovered the 
elastic quality of steam, are men of genius, to whom 
statues will some day be erected. They have changed, 
or they will chauge in a certain sense, the face of the 
State. It is in that sense that Desplein will always be 
considered a man of genius by thinkers ; they see him 
attended by a generation of sufferers whose pains are 
stilled by his hand." 

That Ernest should give utterance to this opinion 
was enough to make Modeste oppose it. i 

'^If that be so, monsieur," she said, '^ then the man | 
who could discover a way to mow wheat without in- I 
juring the straw, by a machine that could do the work 
of ten men, would be a man of genius." 

"Yes, my daughter," said Madame Mignon; "and 
the poor would bless him for cheaper breads — he that 
is blessed by the poor is blessed of God." 

" That is putting ut il i ty abovo art," said Modeste, > 
shaking her head. 

" Without utility what would become of art?" said 
Charles Mignon. " What would it rest on ? what would 
it live on? Where would you lodge, and how would 
you pay the poet?" 

" Oh I my dear papa, such opinions are fearfully flat 



248 Modeste Mignon. 

and antedilavian ! I am not surprised that Gobenheim 
and Monsieur de La Briere, who are interested in the 
solution of social problems should think so ; but joa, 
whose life has been the most useless poetry of the 
century, — useless because the blood yoxk shed all over 
Europe, and the horrible sufferings exacted by your co- 
lossus, did not prevent France from losing ten depart- 
ments acquired under the Revolution, —• how can you 
give in to such excessively pig-tail notions, as the ideal- 
ists say? It is plain you 've just come from China." 

The impertinence of Modeste's speech was height- 
ened by a little air of contemptuous disdain which 
she purposely put on, and which fairly astounded 
Madame Mignon, Madame Latoumelle, and Dumay. 
As for Madame Latournelle, she opened her eyes so 
wide she no longer saw anything. Butscha, whose alert 
attention ^as comparable to that of a spy, looked at 
Monsieur Mignon, expecting to see him flush with 
sudden and violent indignation. 

" A little more, young lad}', and you, will be wanting 
in respect for your father," said the colonel, smiling, 
and noticing Butscha's look. ^' See what it is to spoil 
one's children ! " 

" I am 3'our only child," she said saucily. 

" Child, indeed," remarked the notary, significantly. 

^' Monsieur,'* said Modeste, turning upon him, ^^ my 
father is delighted to have me for his governess; he 
gave me life and I give him knowledge ; he will soon 
owe me something." 

^^ There seems occasion for it," said Madame Mignon. 

^^ But mademoiselle is right," said Canalis rising and 
standing before the fireplace in one of the finest at- 



Modeste Mignon, 240 

titades of his collection. '^God, in his providence, has 
given food and clothing to man, but he has not directly- 
given him art. He says to man : *To live, thou must 
bow thyself to earth ; to think, thou shalt lift thyself to 
Me.' We have as much need of the life of the soul as 
of the life of the body, — hence, there are two utilities. 
It is true we cannot be shod by books or clothed by 
poems. An epic song is not, if you take the utilitarian 
view, as useful as the broth of a charity kitchen. The 
noblest ideas will not sail a vessel in place, of canvas. 
It is quite true that the cotton-gin gives us calicoes for 
thirt}^ sous a yai*d less than we ever paid before ; but 
that machine and all other industrial perfections will 
not breathe the breath of life into a people, will not 
tell futurity of a civilization that once existed. Art, on 
the contrary, Egyptian, Mexican, Grecian, Roman art, 
with their masterpieces — now called useless ! — reveal 
the existence of races back in the vague immense of 
time, beyond where the great intermediary nations, 
denuded of men of genius, have disappeared, leaving 
not a line nor a trace behind them! The works of 
genius are the summum of civilization, and presuppose 
utility. Surely a pair of boots are not as agreeable to 
your eyes as a fine play at the theatre ; and you don't 
prefer a windmill to the church of Saint-Ouen, do you ? \ 
Well then, nations are imbued with the same feelings j 
as the individual man, and the man's cherished desire ' 
is to survive himself morally just as he propagates him- ;' 
self physically. The survival of a people is the work/ 
of its men of genius. At this very moment France i^ 
proving, energetically, the truth of that theory. Sh^ 
is, undoubtedly, excelled by England in commerce, in<- 



250 Modeste Mignon. 

dustrjy and navigation, and yet she is, I believe, at the 
head of the world, — by reason of her artists, her men 
of talent, and the good taste of her products. There 
. is no artist and no superior intellect that does not come 
/ to Paris for a diploma. There is no school of painting 
^ at this moment but that of France ; and we shall reign 
/ far longer and perhaps more securely by our books than 
by our swords. In La Bri^re's system, on the other 
hand, all that is glorious and lovely must be suppressed, 
— woman's beauty, music, painting, poetry. Societ}'^ 
will not be overthrown, that is true, but, I ask you, who 
would willingly accept such a life? All useful things 
are ugly and forbidding. A kitchen is indispensable, 
but you take care not to sit there ; 3^ou live in the salon, 
which 3'ou adorn, like this, with superfluous things. Of 
what tMCj let me iask you, are these charming wall-paint- 
ings, this carved wood- work? There is nothing beauti- 
ful but that which seems to us useless. We called the 
sixteenth century the Renascence with admirable truth 
of language. That century was the dawn of a new era. 
Men will continue to speak of it when all remembrance 
of anterior centuries has passed away, — their only merit 
being that they once existed, like the million beings who. 
count as the rubbish of a generation." 

"Rubbish! yes, that may be, but my rubbish is 
dear to me," said the Due d'H^rouville, laughing, dur- 
ing the silent pause which followed the poet's pompous 
oration. 
I " Let me ask," said Butscha, attacking Canalis, ^ does 
I art, the sphere in which, according to you, genius is 
j required to evolve itself, exist at all? Is it not a 
Blilcndid lie, a delusion, of the social man? Do I want 



Modeste Mignon. 251 

a landscape scene of Normandy in my bedroom when 
I can look out and see a better one done by God him- 
self? Oar dreams make poems more glorious than 
Iliads. For an insignificant sum of money I can find 
at Valogne, at Carentan, in Provence, at Aries, many a 
Venus as beautiful as those of Titian. The police 
gazette publishes tales, differing somewhat from those 
of Walter Scott, but ending tragically with blood, not 
ink. Happiness and virtue exist above and beyond 
both art and genius." 

*' Bravo, Butscha ! " cried Madame Latoumelle. 

"What did he say?" asked Canalis of La Briere, 
failing to gather from the eyes and attitude of Made- 
moiselle Mignon the usual signs of artless admiration. 

The contemptuous indifference which Modeste had > 
exhibited towai:d-Xa3ri^re, and above all, ,h££.jlisre- 
Fipfftfiil ffp^fifihPfl ^^ ^^^ father, so depressed, the young 
manJha^Jie-madenQ.answer. to Canalis;. his ejr-es, fixed ' 
sorrowful]y.jULJiode8t&,. were full of deep meditation. 
The Due d'Herouville took up Butscha's argument and 
reproduced it with much intelligence, saying finally that 
the ecstasies of Saint-Theresa were far superior to the 
creations of Lord Byron. 

"Oh, Monsieur le due," exclaimed Modeste, "hers 
was a purely personal poetry, whereas the genius of 
Lord Byron and Moliere benefit the world." 

"How do you square that opinion with those of 
Monsieur le baron?" cried Charles Mignon, quickly. 
" Now you are insisting that genius must be useful, 
and benefit the world as though it were cotton, — but 
perhaps you think logic as antediluvian as your poor 
old father?" 



252 ^ Modeste Mignon* 

Bntscha, La Briere, and Madame Latoarnelle ex- 
changed glances that were more than half derisive, 
and drove Modeste to a pitch of irritation that kept 
her silent for a moment. 

^^Mademoiselle, do not mind them/' said Canalis, 
smiling upon her, ^' we are neither beaten, nor caught 
in a contradiction. Every work of art, let it be in lit- 
erature, music, painting, sculpture, or architecture, im- 
plies a positive social utility, equal to that of all other 
commercial products. Art is pre-eminently commerce ; 
presupposes it, in short. An author pockets ten thga- 
sand francs for his book ; the making of books *mekns 
the manufactory of paper, a foundry, a printing-office, 
a bookseller, — in other words, the employment of thou- 
sands-of^men. The execution of a symphon}' of Bee- 
thoven or an opera by Rossini requires human arms and 
machinery and manufactures. The cost of a monument 
is an almost brutal case in point. In short, I may say 
that the works of genius have an extremely costly basis 
and are, necessarily, useful to the workingman." 

Astride of that theme, Canalls spoke for some min- 
utes with a fine luxury of metaphor, and much inward 
complacency as to his phrases ; but it happened with 
him, as with many another great speaker, that he found 
himself at last at the point from which the conversation 
/ started, and in full agreement with La Briere without 
perceiving it. 

" I see with much pleasure, my dear baron," said 
the little duke, slyly, ^< that you will make an admirable 
constitutional minister.'' 

'' Oh I " said Canalis, with the gesture of a great 
man, " what is the use of all these discussions? What 



Modeste Mignon. ^ 253 

do they prove? — the eternal verity of one axiom: 
All things are tme, all things are false. Moral truths 
as well as human beings change their aspect according 
to their surroundings, to the point of being actually 
unrecognizable." 

^^ Society exists through settled opinions/' said the 
Due d'Herouville. 

^^ What laxity ! " whispered Madame Latournelle to 
her husband. 

'' He is a poet," said Gobenheim, who overheard her. 

Canalis, who was ten leagues above the heads of his 
audience, and who may have been right in his last philo- 
sophical remark, took the sort of coldness which now 
overspread the surrounding faces for a symptom of 
provincial ignorance; but seeing that Modeste under- 
stood him, he was content, being wholly unaware that 
monologue is particularly disagreeable to country- 
folk, whose principal desire it is to exhibit the man- 
ner of life and the wit and wisdom of the provinces 
to Parisians. 

'^Is it long since you have seen the Ducbesse de 
Chaulieu?" asked the duke, addressing Canalis, as if 
to change the conversation. 

'* I left her about six days ago." 

'* Is she well? " persisted the duke. 

" Perfectly weU." 

^^Have the kindness to remember me to her when 
you write." 

*'They say she is charming," remarked Modeste, 
addressing the duke. 

" Monsieur le baron can speak more confidently than 
I," replied the grand equerry. _ 

OF THF 'r ^ 




UNIVERSITY ) 



\ 






254 Modeste Mignan. 

^^ More than charming," said Canalis, making the 
best of the duke's perfidy ; '^ but I am partial, mademoi- 
selle ; she has been a friend to me for the last ten years ; 
I owe all that is good in me to her ; she has saved me 
from the dangers of the world. Moreover, Monsieur le 
Due de Chaulieu launched me in my present career. 
Without the influence of that family the king and the 
princesses would have forgotten a poor poet like me ; 
therefore my affection for the duchess must always be 
full of gratitude." 

His voice quivered. 

" We ought to love the woman who has led you to 
write those sublime poems, and who inspires you with 
such noble feelings," said Modeste, quite affected. 
" Who can think of a poet without a muse ! " 

"He would be without a heart," replied Canalis. 
" He would write bai*ren verses like Voltaire, who 
never loved any one but Voltaire." 

I thought you did me the honor to say, in Paris," 
interrupted Dumay, " that you never felt the sentiments 
you expressed." 
"" '' The shoe fits, my soldier," replied the poet, smiling ; 
^'but let me tell you that it is quite possible to have a 
great deal of feeling both in the intellectual life and in 
real life. M3' good friend here, La Briere, is madly in 
love," continued Canalis, with a fine show of generosit3% 
looking at Modeste. " 1, who certainly love as much 
as he, — that is, I think so unless I delude m3'self, — 
well, I can give to my love a literaiy form in harmony 
with its character. But I dare not say, mademoiselle," 
he added, turning to Modeste with too studied a grace, 
" that to-morrow I raa}' not be without inspiration." 



Modeste Mignon. 255 

Thus the poet triumphed over all obstacles. In 
honor of his love he rode a-tilt at the hindrances that 
were thrown in his wa}', anji Modeste remained won- 
der-struck at the Parisian wit that scintillated in his 
declamatory discourse, of which she had hitherto known 
little or nothing. 

** What an acrobat ! " whispered Butscha to Latour- 
nelle, after listening to a magnificent tirade on the 
Catholic religion and the happiness of having a pious 
wife, — served up in response to a remark by Madame 
Mignon. 

Modeste's eyes were blindfolded as it were ; Canalis's 
elocution and the close attention which she was prede- , 
termined to pay to him prevented her from seeing that 
Butscha was carefully noting the declamation, the want 
of simplicity, the emphasis that took the place of feeling, 
and the curious incoherencies in the poet's speech which 
led the dwarf to make his rather cruel comnaent At 
certain points of Canalis's discourse, when Monsieur 
Mignon, Dumay, Butscha, and Latournelle wondered 
at the man's utter want of logic, Modeste admired his 
suppleness, and said to herself, as she dragged him after 
her through the labyrinth of fancy, '' He loves me ! " 
Butscha, in common with the other spectators of what 
we must caU a stage scene, was struck with the radi- 
cal defect of all egoists, which Canalis, like many 
men accustomed to perorate, allowed to be too plainly 
seen. Whether he understood beforehand what the 
person he was speaking to meant to say, whether he 
was not listening, or whether he had the faculty of 
listening when he was thinking of something else, it is 
certain that Melchior's face wore an absent-minded look 



256 Modente Mignon. 

in oonversation, which disoonoerted the ideas of others 
and wounded their vanity. 

Not to listen is not merely a want of politeness, it is a 
mark of disrespect. Canalis poshed this habit too far ; 
fur he often forgot to answer a speech which required 
an answer, and passed, without the ordinary transitions 
of courtesy, to the subject, whatever it was, that pre- 
occupied him. Though such impertinence is accepted 
without protest fix>m a man of marked distinction, it 
stirs a leaven of hatred and vengeance in many hearts ; 
in those of equals it even goes so far as to destroy 
friendship. If by chance Melchior was forced to listen, he 
fell into another fault ; he merely lent his attention, and 
never gave it Though this may not be so mortifying, 
it shows a kind of semi-concession which is almost as 
unsatisfactory to the hearer and leaves him dissatisfied. 
Nothing brings more profit in the commerce of society 
than the small change of attention. He that heareth let 
him hear, is not only a gospel precept, it is an excellent 
speculation; follow it, and all will be forgiven you, 
even vice. Canalis took a great deal of trouble in his 
anxiety to please Modeste; but though he was com- 
pliant enough with her, he fell back into his natural self 
with the others. 

Modeste, pitiless for the ten martyrs she was mak- 
ing, begged Canalis to read some of his poems ; she 
wanted, she said, a specimen of his gifb for reading, of 
which she had heard so much. Canalis took the vol- 
ume which she gave him, and cooed (for that is the 
proper word) a poem which is generall}' considered his 
finest, — an imitation of Moore's ''Loves of the An- 
gels," entitled Vitalis, which Monsieur and Madame 



Modeste Mignon, 267 

Dumay, Madame LatourneUe, and Gobenheim wel- 
comed with a few yawns. 

'"If you are a good whist^player, monsieur," said 
Gobenheim, flourishing five cards held like a fan, "I. 
must say I have never met a man as accomplished as 
you." 

The remark raised a laugh, for it was the translation 
of everybody's thought. 

" I play it sufficiently well to live in the provinces 
for the rest of my days," replied Canalis. " That, I 
think, is enough, and more than enough literature and 
conversation for whist-players," he added, throwing the 
volume impatiently on a table. 

This little incident serves to show what dangers en- 
viron a drawing-room hero when he steps, like Canalis, 
out of his sphere ; he is like the favorite actor of a 
second-rate Audience, whose talent is lost when he 
leaves his own boards and steps upon those of an 
upper-class theatre. 



17 



258 Modeste Mignofu 



CHAPTER XXI. 

MODESTE PLAYS HER PAST. 

The game opened with the baron and the duke, 
Gobenheim and Latoumelle as partners. Modeste 
took a seat near the poet, to Ernest's deep disappoint- 
ment ; he watched the face of the wayward girl, and 
marked the progress of the fascination which Canalis 
exerted over her. La Briere had not the gift of se- 
duction which Melchior possessed. Nature frequently 
denies it to true hearts, who are, as a rule, timid. 
This gift demands fearlessness, an alacrity of wars and 
means that might be called the trapeze of the mind ; a 
little mimicry goes with it; in fact there is always, 
morally speaking, something of the comedian in a poet. 
There is a vast difference between expressing senti- 
ments we do not feel, though we may imagine all their 
vanations, and feigning to feel them when bidding for 
success on the theatre of private life. And yet, though 
the necessary hypocrisy of a man of the world may 
have gangrened a poet, he ends by carrying the facul- 
ties of his talent into the expression of any required 
sentiment, just as a great man doomed to solitude ends 
by infusing his heart into his mind. 

*' He is after the millions," thought La Briere, sadly ; 
*' and he can play passion so well that Modeste will 
believe him." 



Modeste Mignon. 259 

Instead of endeavoring to appear more amiable and 
"Wittier than his rival, Ernest imitated the Due d'Herou- 
ville, and was gloomy, anxious, and watchful; but 
whereas the courtier studied the freaks of the 3'oung 
heiress, Ernest simply fell a prey to the pains of dark 
and concentrated jealousy. He had not yet been able 
to obtain a glance from his idoL After a while he left 
the room with Butscha. 

"It is all over!" he said; "she is caught by' 
him ; I am more than disagreeable to her, and, more- 
over, she is right. Caualis is charming ; there 's intel- 
lect in his silence, passion in his eyes, poetry in his 
rhodomontades." 

" Is he an honest man?" asked Butscha. _ 

"Oh, yes," replied La Briere. "He is loyal and 1 
chivalrous, and capable of getting rid, under Modeste's V 
influence, of those affectations which Madame de Chau- 
lieu has taught him." 

" You are a fine fellow," said the hunchback ; " but 
is he capable of loving, — will he love her? " 

" I don|t know," answered La Brifere. " Has she 
said anything about me?" he asked after a moment's 
silence. 

"Yes," said Butscha, and he repeated Modeste's 
speech about disguises. -- 

Poor Ernest flung himself upon a bench and held his 
head in his hands. He could not keep back his tears, 
and he did not wish Butscha to see them ; but the 
dwarf was the very man to guess his emotion. 

" What troubles you?" he asked. 

" She is right ! " cried Ernest, springing up ; "I am 
a wretch." 



260 Modeste Mignon. 

And he related the deception into which Canalis had 
led him when Modeste's first letter was received, care- 
fhlly pointing out to Butscha that he had wished to 
undeceive the young girl before she herself took off the 
mask, and apostrophizing, in rather juvenile fashion, 
his luckless destiny. Butscha sympathetica!!}' under- 
stood the love in the flavor and vigor of his simple 
language, and in his deep and genuine anxiety. 

" But why don't you show 3'ourself to Mademoiselle 
Modeste for what you are? " he said ; " why do 3'ou let 
your rival do his exercises ? " 

*' Have you never felt your throat tighten when you 
wished to speak to her?" cried La Bri^re; " is there 
never a strange feeling in the roots of jour hair and on 
the surface of your skin when she looks at you, — even 
if she is thinking of something else? " 

" But 3'ou had sufficient judgment to show displeas- 
ure when she as good as told her excellent father that 
he was a dolt." 

" Monsieur, I love her too well not to have felt a 
knife in my heart when I heard her contradicting her 
own perfections." 

'* Canalis supported her." 

" If she had more self-love than heart there would be 
nothing for a man to regret in losing her," answered 
La Briere. 

At this moment Modeste, followed by Canalis, who 
had lost the rubber, came out with her father and 
Madame Dumay to breathe the fresh air of the starry 
night. While his daughter walked about with the poet, 
Charles Mignon left her apd came up to La Briere. 

"Your friend, monsieur, ought to have been a law- 



Modeste Mignon. 261 

yer," he said, smiling and looking attentively at the 
young man. 

*' You must not judge a poet as you would an ordi- 
nary man, — as you would me, for example. Monsieur 
le comte," said La Briere. *' A poet has a mission. 
He is obliged by his nature to see the poetry of ques- 
tions, just as he expresses that of things. When 3^ou 
think him inconsistent with himself he is really faithful 
to his vocation. He is a painter copying with equal 
truth a Madonna and a courtesan. Moliere is as true 
to nature in his old men as in his young ones, and ' 
Moli^re's judgment was assuredly a sound and healthy 
one. These witty paradoxes might be dangerous for 
second-rate minds, but they have no real influence on 
the character of great men." 

Charles Mignon pressed La Briei*e's hand. 

" That adaptability, however, leads a man to excuse 
himself in his own e^-es for actions that are diametri- 
cail}' opposed to each other ; above all, in politics." 

^^Ah, mademoiselle," Canalis was at this moment 
saying, in a caressing voice, replying to a roguish 
remark of Modeste, "do not think that a multiplicity 
of emotions can in any way lessen the strength of 
feelings. Poets, even more than other men, must needs 
love with constancy and faith. You must not be jeal- \ 
ous of what is called the Muse. Happ^^ is the wife of 
a man whose days are occupied. If you heard the 
complaints of women who have to endure the burden of 
an idle husband, either a man without duties, or one so 
rich as to have nothing to do, you would know that the « 
highest. happiness of a Parisian wife is freedom, — the 
riyrht to rule in her own home. Now we writers and 



262 Modeste Mignan. 

men of fhnctions and occupations, we leave the sceptre 
to our wives; we cannot descend to the tyranny of 
little minds; we have something better to do. If I 
ever marry, — which I assure you is a catastrophe very 
remote at the present moment, — I should wish my 
wife to enjoy the same moral freedom that a mistress 
enjoys, and which is perhaps the real source of her 
attraction." 

Canalis talked on, displaying the warmth of his fancy 
and all his graces, for Modeste's benefit, as he spoke of 
love, marriage, and the adoration of women, until Mon- 
sieur Mignon, who had rejoined them, seized the oppor- 
tunity of a slight pause to take his daughter's arm and 
lead her up to £rnest de La Briere, whom he had been 
advising to seek an open explanation with her. 

^'Mademoiselle," said Ernest, in a voice that was 
scarcely his own, '^ it is impossible for me to remain 
any longer under the weight of your displeasure. I 
do not defend myself; I do not seek to justify my 
conduct; I desire only to make yon see that before 
reading your most flattering letter, addressed to the 
individual and no longer to the poet, — the last which 
you sent to me, — I wished, and I told you in my note 
written at Havre that I wished, to correct the error 
under which you were acting. All the feelings that 
I have had the happiness to express to you are sincere. 
A hope dawned on me in Paris when your father told 
me he was comparatively poor, — but now that all is 
lost, now that nothing is left for me but endless regrets, 
wh}' should I stay here where all is torture ? Let me 
carr}' away with me one smile to live forever in my 
heart." 






Modeste Mignon. 263 

"Monsieur," answered Modeste, who seemed cold and [ . ^ ^ 
absent-minded, "I am not the mistress of this house; ' 
but I certainly should deeply* regret to retain any one 
where he finds neither pleasure nor happiness." 

She left La Briere and took Madame Dumay's arm 
to re-enter the house. A few moments later all the 
actors in this domestic scene reassembled in the salon, 
and were a good deal surprised to see Modeste sitting 
beside the Due d' H^rouville and coquetting with him 
like an accomplished Parisian woman. She watched 
his play, gave him the advice he wanted, and found 
occasion to say flattering things by ranking the merits 
of noble birth with those of genius and beauty. Cana- 
lis thought he knew the reason of this change ; he had 
tiied to pique Modeste by calling marriage a catastro- 
phe, and showing that he was aloof from it ; but like 
others who play with fire, he had burned his fingers. 
Moi^ fiftte'p pride an d her present disdain -fdghtened 
him , and he endeavored to recover his ground, exhib- 
iting a jealousy which was all the more visible because : 
it was artificial. Modeste, implacable as an angel, : 
ta sted tiSe^'^ eets of jpower, and, naturan3'"~enough, . 
aE used it . TEeTJuc d'Herouville had never known 1 
such a happy evening ; a woman smiled on him ! At 
eleven o'clock, an unheard-of hour at the Chalet, the 
three suitors took their leave, — the duke thinking Mo- 
deste charming, Canalis believing her excessivelj^ coquet- 
tisn, ana ijaBi-iere^ heart-broken hj: her cruelt3\ 
Tor eight days the heiress continued to be to her 
three lovers very much what she. had been duiing that 
evening; so that the poet appeared to carry the day 
against his rivals, in spite of certain freaks and caprices 



264 Modeste Mignon. 

which from time to time gave the Due d'Herouville a lit- 
tle hope. The disrespect she showed to her father, and 
the great liberties she took with him ; her impatience 
with her blind mother, to whom she seemed to grudge 
the little services which had once been the delight 
of her filial piety, — seemed the result of a capricious 
nature and a heedless gayety indulged from childhood. 
When Modeste went too far, she turned round and 
openly took herself to task, ascribing her impertinence 
and levity to a spirit of independence. She acknowl- 
edged to the duke and Canalis her distaste for obedi- 
ence, and professed to regard it as an obstacle to her 
marriage ; thus investigating the nature of her suitors, 
after the manner of those who dig into the earth in 
search of metals, coal, tufa, or water. 

" 1 shall never," she said, the evening before the day 
on which the family were to move into the villa, " find 
a husband who will put up with m^^ caprices as my 
father does; his kindness never flags. I am sure no 
one will ever be as indulgent to me as my precious 
mother." 

''They know that you love them, mademoiselle," 
said La Bri^re. 

''You may be very sure, mademoiselle, that your 
husband will know the full value of his treasure," added 
the duke. 

" You have spirit and resolution enough to discipline 
a husband," cried Canalis, laughing. 

Modeste smiled as Henri IV. must have smiled after 
drawing out the characters of his three principal minis- 
ters, for the benefit of a foreign ambassador, b}- means 
of three answers to an insidious question. 



Modeste Mlgnon. 265 

On the day of the dinner, Modeste, led awaj'by the 
preference she bestowed on Canalis, walked alone with 
him up and down the gravelled space which lay between 
the house and the lawn with its flower-beds. From the 
gestures of the poet, and the air and manner of the 
young heiress, it was easy to see that she was listening 
favorably to him. The tvo demoiselles d'Herouville 
hastened to interrupt the scandalous t^te-k-tete; and 
with the natural cleverness of women under such cir- 
cumstances, they turned the conversation on the court, 
and the distinction of an appointment under the crown, 
— pointing out the difference that existed between ap- 
pointments in the household of the king and those of 
the crown. The}' tried to intoxicate Modeste's mind 
by appealing to her pride, and describing one of the 
highest stations to which a woman could aspire. 

*' To have a duke for a son," said the elder lady, " is 
an actual advantage. The title is a fortune that we se- 
cure to our children without the possibility of loss." 
. " How is it, then," said Canalis, displeased at his tete- 
k-t^te being thus broken in upon, " that Monsieur le 
dac has had so little success in a matter where his title 
would seem to be of special service to him?" 

The two ladies cast a look at Canalis as full of venom 
as the tooth of a snake, and the}' were so disconcerted 
by Modeste's amused smile that they were actually un- 
able to reply. 

'* Monsieur le due has never blamed you," she said 
to Canalis, " for the humility with which yon bear your 
fame ; why should you attack him for his modesty? " 

" Besides, we have never j-et met a woman worthy 
of my nephew's rank," said Mademoiselle d'Herouville. 



266 Modeste Mignon. 

^^ Some had only the wealth of the position ; others, 
without fortune, had the wit and birth. I must ad- 
mit that we have done well to wait till God granted 
us an opportunity to meet one in whom we find the 
noble blood, the mind, and fortune of a Duchesse 
d'Herouville." 

^^ My dear Modeste," said H^lene d'H^rouville, lead- 
ing her new friend apart, ^^ there are a thousand barons 
in the kingdom, just as there are a hundred poets in 
Paris, who are worth as much as he ; he is so little of a 
great man that even I, a poor girl forced to take the 
veil for want of a dot^ I would not take him. You 
don't know what a young man is who has been for ten 
years in the hands of a Duchesse de Chaulieu. None 
but an old woman of sixty could put up with the little 
ailments of which, they sa^^, the great poet is always 
complaining, — a habit in Louis XIV . that became a 
perfectly insupportable annoyance. It is true the 
duchess does not suffer from it as much as a wife, who 
would have him alwa^^s about her." 

Then, practising a well-known manoeuvre peculiar to 
her sex, H^lene d'H^rouville repeated in a low voice 
all the calumnies which women jealous of the Duchesse 
de Chaulieu were in the habit of spreading about the 
poet. This little incident, common as it is in the inter- 
course of women, will serve to show with what fury 
the hounds were after Modeste's wealth. 

Ten days saw a great change in the opinions at the 
Chalet as to the three suitors for Mademoiselle de La 
Bastie's hand. This change, which was much to the 
disadvantage of Canalis, came about through consider- 
ations of a nature which ought to make the holders of 



Modeste Migrum. 267 

any kind of fame pause, and reflect. No one can 
•deny, if we remember the passion with which people 
seek for autographs, that public curiositj' is greatly ex- 
cited by celebrity. Evidently- most provincials never 
form an exact idea in their own minds of how illus- 
trious Parisians put on their cravats, walk on the 
boulevards, stand gaping at nothing, or eat a cutlet ; be- 
cause, no sooner do they perceive a man clothed in the 
sunbeams of fashion or resplendent with some dignity 
that is more or less fugitive (though alwaj^s envied), 
than they cry out, " Look at that! " '* How queer ! " 
and other depreciatory exclamations. In a word, the 
mysterious charm that attaches to ever}' kind of fame, 
even that which is most justly due, never lasts. It is, 
and especially with superficial people who are envious 
or sarcastic, a sensation which passes off with the ra- 
pidity of lightning, and never returns. It would seem 
as though fame, like the sun, hot and luminous at a 
distance, is cold as the summit of an alp when 3'ou 
approach it. Perhaps man is only really great to his 
peers ; perhaps the defects inherent in his constitution 
disappear sooner to the eyes of his equals than to those 
of vulgar admirers. A poet, if he would please in 
ordinary' life, must put on the fictitious graces of those 
who are able to make their insignificance forgotten by 
charming manners and complying speeches. The poet 
of the faubourg Saint-Germain, who did not choose to 
bow before this social dictum, was made before long to 
feel that an insulting provincial indifference had suc- 
ceeded to the dazed fascination of the earlier evenings. 
The prodigality- of his wit and wisdom had produced 
upon these worthy souls somewhat the effect which a 



268 Modeste Mignan. 

shopfUl of glass-ware produces on the eye; in other 
words, the fire and brilliancy of Canalis's eloquence 
soon wearied people who, to use their own words, 
" cared more for the solid." 

Forced after a while to behave like an ordinary 
man, the poet found an unexpected stumbling-block 
on ground where La Briere had already* won the suf- 
frage of the worthy people who at first had thought 
him sulky. They felt the need of compensating them- 
selves for Canalis's reputation by preferring his friend. 
The best of men are influenced by such feelings as 
these. The simple and straightforward joung fellow 
jarred no one's self-love ; coming to' know him better 
they discovered his heart, his modesty, his silent 
and sure discretion, and his excellent bearing. The 
Due d'HerouviUe considered him, as a political ele- 
ment, far above Canalis. The poet, ill-balanced, 
ambitious, and restless as Tasso, loved luxur^^ gran- 
deur, and ran into debt; while the young lawyer, 
whose character was equable and well-balanced, lived 
soberl}', was useful without proclaiming it, awaited 
rewards without begging for them, and laid by his 
money. 

Canalis had moreover laid himself open in a special 
way to the bourgeois eyes that were watching him. 
For two or three da^'s he had shown signs of impa- 
tience; he had given way to depression, to states of 
melancholy without apparent reason, to those capricious 
changes of temper which are the natural results of the 
nervous temperament of poets. These origiualities 
^we use the provincial word) came from the uneasiness 
that his conduct toward the Duchesse de Chaulicu 



Modeste Mignon. 269 

which grew daily kss explainable, caused him. He 
knew he ought to write to her, but could not resolve on 
doiDgx so. All these fluctuations were carefully re- 
marked and commented on by the gentle American, 
and the excellent Madame Latournelle, and they formed 
the topic of many a discussion between these two ladies 
and Madame Mignon. Canalis felt the effects of these 
discussions without being able to explain them. The 
attention paid to him was not the same, the faces sur- 
rounding him no longer wore the entranced look of the 
earlier days; while at the same time Ernest was evi- 
^eitf.ly gaining ground. 

For the last two days the poet had endeavored to fas- 
cinate Modeste only, and he^took advantage of every 
moment when he found himself alone with her, to weave 
the web of passionate language around his love. Mo- 
deste's blush, as she listened to him on the occasion we 
have Just mentioned, showed the demoiselles d'Herou- 
ville the pleasure with which she was listening to sweet 
conceits that were sweetly said ; and thej-, horribl}" un- 
easy at the sight, had immediate recourse to the uUima 
ratio of women in such cases, namel}', those calumnies 
which seldom miss their object. Accordingly, when 
the party met at the dinner-table the poet saw a cloud 
on the brow of his idol; he knew that Mademoiselle 
d'HerouvUle's malignit}' allowed him to lose no time, 
and he resolved to offer himself as a husband at the 
first moment when he could find himself alone with 
Modeste. 

Overhearing a few acid though polite remarks ex- 
changed between the poet and the two noble ladies, 
Gobenheim nudged Butscha with his elbow, and said 



270 ModeBte Mgnon. 

in an undertone, motioning toward the poet and the 
grand equerry, — 

" They '11 demolish one another ! " 

^^ Canalis has genius enough to demolish himself all 
alone," answered the dwarf. 



Modeste Mignon. 271 



CHAPTER XXn. 

A RIDDLE GUESSED. 

DuBiNG the dinner, which was magnificent and ad- 
mirably well served, the duke obtained a signal advan- 
tage over Canalis. Modeste, who had received her 
habit and other equestrian equipments the night before, 
spoke of taking rides about the country. A turn of the 
conversation led her to express the wish to see a hunt 
with hounds, a pleasure she had never yet enjoyed. 
The duke at once proposed to arrange a hunt in one of 
the crown forests, which lay a few leagues from Havre. 
Thanks to his intimacy with the Prince de Cadignan, 
Master of the Hunt, he saw his chance of displaying 
an almost regal pomp before Modeste's eyes, and allur- 
ing her with a glimp se of cmift fia^^p^ifj^pa^ to which l^ 
sh e could be introduc ed by marriage. Glances were 
exchanged between the duke and the two demoiselles 
d'HerouviUe, which plainly said, " The heiress is ours ! " 
and the poet, who detected them, and who had nothing 
but his personal splendors to depend on, determined all 
the more firmly to obtain some pledge of afiTection at 
once. Modeste, on the other hand, half-frightened at 
being thus pushed beyond her intentions by the d'Herou- 
villes, walked rather markedly apart with Melchior, 
when the company adjourned to the park after dinner. 
With the pardonable curiosity of a young girl, she let 



272 Modeste Mignon. 

bim suspect the calumnies which Helene had poured 
into her ears ; but on Canalis*s exclamation of anger, 
she begged him to keep silence about them, which he 
promised. 

"These stabs of the tongue," he said, *' are con- 
sidered fair in the great world. They shock your up- 
right nature ; but as for me, I laugh at them ; I am 
even pleased. These ladies must feel that the duke's 
interests are in great peril, when they have recourse to 
such warfare." 

Making the most of the advantage Modeste had thus 
given him, Canalis entered upon his defence with such 
warmth, such eagerness, and with a passion so exquisitely 
expressed, as he thanked her for a confidence in which 
he could venture to see the dawn of love, that she found 
herself suddenly as much compromised with the poet 
AS she feared to be with the grand equerry. Canalis, 
feeling the necessit}^ of prompt action, declared himself 
plainly. He uttered vows and protestations in which 
his poetry shone like a moon, invoked for the occasion, 
and illuminating his allusions to the beaut}' of his 
mistress and the charms of her evening dress. This 
counterfeit enthusiasm, in which the night, the foliage, 
the heavens and the earth, and Nature herself placed a 
part, carried the eager lover be3"ond all bounds ; for he 
dwelt on his disinterestedness, and revamped in his 
own charming style, Didei'ot's famous apostrophe to 
"Sophie and fifteen hundred francs!" and the well- 
worn "love in a cottage" of ever}' lover who knows 
perfectly well the length of the father-in-law's purse. 

" Monsieur," said Modeste, after listening with 
delight to the melody of this concerto ; "the freedom 



Modeste Mignon. 278 

granted to me by my parents has allowed me to listen 
to you ; but it is to them that you must address your- 
self." 

"But," exclaimed Canalis, "tell me that if I obtain ~? 
their consent, you will ask nothing better than to obey I 
them." ^ ^ 

** I know beforehand," she replied, " that my father 
has certain fancies which may wound the proper pride 
of an old family like yours. He wishes to have his own 
title and name borne by his grandsons." 

"Ah I dear Modeste, what sacrifices would I not 
make to commit my life to the guardian care of an angel 
like you." 

" You will permit me not to decide in a moment the 
fate of my whole life," she said, turning to rejoin the 
demoiselles d'H^rouville. 

Those noble ladies were just then engaged in flattering 
the vanity of little Latournelle, intending to win him over 
to their interests. Mademoiselle d'H^ouville, to whom 
we shall in future confine the family name, to distinguish 
her from her niece Helene, was giving the notary to 
understand that the post of judge of the Supreme Court 
in Havre, which Charles X. would bestow as she desired, 
was an office worthy of his legal talent and his well- 
known probity. Butscha meanwhile, who had been \ 
walking about with La Briere, was greatly alarmed at I 
the progress Canalis was evidently making, and he way- 1 
laid Modeste at the lower step of the portico when the 
whole party returned to the house to endure the tor- 
ments of their inevitable whist. 

" Mademoiselle," he said, in a low voice, " I do hope 
you don't call him Melchior." 

18 



274 Modeste Mignon. 

"I'm very near it, my Black Dwarf," she said, with 
a smile that might have made an angel swear. 

"Good God!" exclaimed Butscha, letting fall his 
hands, which struck the marble steps. 

" Well ! and is n't he worth more than that spiteful 
and gloomy secretary in whom 3'ou take such an in- 
terest?" she retorted, assuming, at the mere thought of 
Ernest, the haughty manner whose secret belongs exclu- 
sively to young girls, — as if their vii^nity lent them 
wings to fly to heaven. " Pray, would your little La 
Briere accept me without a fortune? " she said, after a 
pause. 

" Ask your father," replied Butscha, who walked a 
few steps from the house, to get Modeste at a safe 
distance from the windows. " Listen to me, mademoi- 
selle. You know that he who speaks to you is ready to 
give not only his life but his honor for you, at any 
moment, and at all times. Therefore 3'ou may believe 
in him ; you can confide to him that which you may 
not, perhaps, be willing to say to 3'our father. Tell me, 
has that sublime Canalis been makiug you the disin- 
terested offer that you now fling as a reproach at poor 
Ernest?" 

"Yes." 

" Do you believe it? " 

"That question, my manikin," she replied, giving 
him one of the ten or a dozen nicknames she had 
invented for him, " strikes me as undervaluing the 
strength of my self-love." 

" Ah, 3'ou are laughing, my dear Mademoiselle Mo- 
deste ; then there's no danger: I hope you are only 
making a fool of him." 



Modeste Mignon. 275 

'* Pray what would you think of me, Monsieur Butscha, 
if I allowed myself to make fun of those who do 
me the honor to wish to marry me? You ought to 
know, master Jean, that even if a girl affects to 
despise the most despicable attentions, sl^e is flattered 
by them." 

** Then I flatter you?" said the^ young man, looking 
up at her with a face that waa illuminated like a city 
for a festival. 

** You? " she said ; " yoif give me the most precious*^ 
of all friendships, — a feeling as disinterested as that of 
a mother for her child. Compare yourself to no one ; 
for even my father is obliged to be devoted to me.'' 
She paused. '' I cannot say that I love you, in the sense 
which men give to that word, but what I do give you is 
eternal and can know no change." 

** Then," said Butscha, stooping to pick up a pebble 
that he might kiss the hem of her garment, ^^ suffer me 
to watch over you as a dragon guards a treasure. The 
poet was covering 3^ou just now with the lace-work of his 
precious phrases, the tinsel of his promises ; he chanted 
his love on the best strings of his l^-re, I know he did. 
If, as soon as this noble lover finds out how small your 
fortune is, he makes a sudden change in his behavior, 
and is cold and embarrassed, will 3^ou still marry him ? 
shall you still esteem him? " 

" He would be another Francisque Althor," she said, 
with a gesture of yiteiLxiwgust. 

*' Let me have the pleasure of producing that change 
of scene," said Butscha. " Not only shall it be sudden, 
but I believe I can change it back and make \'our poet 
as loving as before, — nay, it is possible to make him 



276 Modeste Mignon. 

blow alternately hot and cold upon your heart, just as 
gracefully as he lias talked on both sides of an argu- 
anent in one evening without ever finding it out." 

*' If you are right," she said, " who can be trusted? " 

*' One who truly loves you." 

*' The little duke?" 

Butscha looked at Modeste. The pair walked some 
distance in silence ; the girl was impenetrable and not 
an eyelash quivered. 

^^ Mademoiselle, permit me to be the exponent of the 
thoughts that are lying at the bottom of 3'our heart like 
sea-mosses under the waves, and which you do not 
choose to gather up." 

*' Eh!" said Modeste, *' so my intimate friend and 
counsellor thinks himself a mirror, does he ? " 

'' No, an echo," he answered, with a gesture of sub- 
lime humility. "The duke loves you, but he loves 
I you too much. If I, a dwarf, have understood the in- 
finite delicacy of your heart, it would be repugnant to 
3'ou to be worshipped like a saint in her shrine. You 
\ are eminently a woman ; you neither want a man perpet- 
\ ually at your feet of whom j^ou are eternally sure, nor a 
I selfish egoist like Canalis, who will always prefer him- 
* self to you. Why ? ah, that I don't know. But I will 
make myself a woman, an old woman, and find out the 
meaning of the plan which I have read in 3'our eyes, and 
which perhaps is in the heart of every girl. Neverthe- 
less, in your great soul you feel the need of worship ping. 
When a man is at your knees, you cannot put yourself 
at his. You can't advance in that wa,y, as Voltaire 
might say. The little duke has too man}' genuflections 
in his moral being and the poet has too few, — indeed, I 



Modeste Mignon. 277 

might say, none at al l. Ha, I have guessed the mis- 
chief in your smiles when you talk to the grand equerry, 
and when he talks to you and you answer him. You 
would never be unhappy with the duke, and everybod}' 
will approve your choice, if you do choose him ; but 3'ou 
wjH ngyer lovg^ ^m. The ice of egotism, ancT the" 
burning heat of ecstasy both produce indifference in 
the heart of every woman. It is evident to my mind 
that no such perpetual worship will give you the infinite 
delights which you are dreaming of in marriage, — in 
some marriage where obedience will be your pride, where 
noble little sacrifices can be made and hidden, where the 
heart is full of anxieties without a cause, and~ successes 
are awaited with eager hope, where each new chance for 
magnanimity is hailed with joy, where souls are com- 
prehended to their inmost recesses, and where the woman 
protects with her love the man who protects her." 

" You ai-e a sorcerer ! " exclaimed Modeste. 

" Neither will you find that sweet equality of feeling, 
that continual sharing of each other's life, that cer- 
tainty of pleasing which makes marriage tolerable, if] 
you take Canalis, — a man who thinks of himself only, 
whose ' I ' is the one string to his lute, whose mind is so 
fixed on himself that he has hitherto taken no notice of 
your father or the duke, — a man of second-rate ambi- 
tions, to whom your dignity and your devotion will 
matter nothing, who will make you a mere appendage 
to his household, and who already insults you by his 
indiffei*ence to* your behavior; yes, if you permitted 
3'ourself to go so far as to box your mother's ears 
Canalis would shut his eyes to it, and deny your crime 
even to himself, because he thirsts for your money. 



278 Modeste Mignan. 

And so, mademoiBelle, when I spoke of the man who 
truly loves von I was not thinking of the great poet 
who is nothing but a little comedian, nor of the duke, 
who might be a good marriage for jou, but never a 
husband — ^ 

" Butscha, my heart is a blank page on which you 
are yourself writing all that 3*ou read there," cried 
Modeste, interrupting him. ''You are carried away 
by your provincial hatred for everything that obliges 
you to look higher than your own head. You can't 
forgive a poet for being a statesman, for possessing the 
gift of speech, for having a noble future before him, — 
and you calumniate his intentions." 

''His! — mademoiselle, he will turn his back upon 
you with the baseness of an Althor." 

" Make him play that pretty little comedy, and — " 

" That I will! he shall play it through and through 
within three days, — on Wednesday, — recollect, Wed- 
nesday ! Until then, mademoiselle, amuse yourself by 
listening to the little tunes of the lyre, so that the dis- 
cords and the false notes ma}* come out all the more 
distinctly." 

Modeste ran gayly back to the salon, where La 
Briere, who was sitting by a window, where he had 
doubtless been watching his idol, rose to his feet as if 
a groom of the chambers had suddenly announced, 
"The Queen." It was a movement of spontaneous 
respect, full of that living eloquence that lies in gesture 
even more than in speech. Spoken love cannot com- 
pare with acts of love ; and every young girl of twenty 
has the wisdom of fifty in applying the axiom. In it 
lies the great secret of attraction. Instead of looking 



Modeite Mignon. 279 

Modeste in the face, as Canalis who paid her public 
homage would have done, the neglected lover followed 
her with a furtive look between his eyelids, humble 
after the manner of Butscha, and almost timid. The 
young heiress observed it, as she took her place by 
Canalis, to whose game she proceeded to pay attention. 
During a conversation which ensued, La Briere heard 
Modeste say to her father that she should ride out for 
the first time on the following Wednesday ; and she also 
reminded him that she had no whip in keeping with 
her new equipments. The 3'oung man flung a light- 
ning glance at the dwarf, and a few minutes later the 
two were pacing the terrace. 

" It is nine o'clock," cried Ernest. " I shall start 
for Paris at full gallop; I can get there to-morrow 
morning by ten. My dear Butscha^ from you she will 
accept anything, for she is attached to you; let me 
give her a riding- whip in your name. If you will do 
me this immense kindness you shall have not only my 
friendship but my devotion." 

" Ah, you are very happ3%" said Butscha^ ruefully ; 
*'you have money, you!" 

*'Tell Canalis not to expect me, and that he must 
find some pretext to account for m}' absence." 

An hour later Erne st had ridden out of Havre. He 
reached Paris in twelve hours, where" his first act was to 
secure a place in the mail-coach for Havre on the follow- 
ing evening. Then he went to three of the chief jewel- 
lers in Paris and compared all the whip-handles that 
they could offei;; he was in search of some artistic 
treasure that was regally superb. He found one at 
last, made by Stidmann for a Russian, who was unable 



280 Modeste Mignon, 

to pay for it when finished, — a fox-head in gold, 
with a raby of exorbitant value ; ^^l^his_8avings,,B£xiL- 
into the purchase^e cost jiLs^lnch was seven Ihousand 
francs .""Ernest gave a drawing of the arms of La 
Bastie, and allowed the shop-people twenty honrs to 
engrave them. The handle, a masterpiece of delicate 
workmanship, was fitted to an india-rubber whip and ' 
put into a morocco case lined with velvet, on which two 
M.'s interlaced were stamped in gold. 

La Briere got back to Havre by the mail-coach Wed- 
nesday morning in time to breakfast with Canalis. The 
l)oet had concealed his secretary's absence by declar- 
ing that he was busy with some work sent from Paris. 
Butscha, who met La Briere at the coach-door, took the 
box containing the precious work of art to Fi*an9oise 
Cochet, with insti*uctions to place it on Modeste's 
dressing-table. 

'' Of course you will accompany Mademoiselle Mo- 
deste on her ride to-day ? " said Butscha, who went to 
Canalis's house to let La Briere know by a wink that 
the whip had gone to its destination. 

" I ? " answered Ernest ; "' no, I am going to bed." 

^^Bah!" exclaimed Canalis, looking at him. ^^ I 
don't know what to make of you." 

Breakfast was then served, and the poet naturally 
invited their visitor to stay and take it. Butscha com- 
plied, having seen in the expression of the valet's face 
the success of a trick in which we shall see the first 
fruits of his promise to Modeste. 

'' Monsieur is very right to detain the clerk of Mon- 
sieur Latournelle," whispered Germain in his master's 
ear. 



Modeste Mignon. 281 

Ganalis and Germain went into the salon on a sign 
that passed between them. 

*•*• I went out this morning to see the men fish, mon- 
sieur," said the valet, — "an excursion proposed to me 
by the captain of a smack, whose acquaintance I have 
made." 

Germain did not acknowledge that he had the bad 
taste to play billiards in a cafe, — a fact of which 
Butscha ha d taken advantage to surround h im with 
fr iend3~ot bis own and mana ge him as he pleased- ^. 

" WeU?" said Canalis, '' tolEe point, — quickT' " 

'^Monsieur le baron, I heard a conversation about 
Monsieur Mignon, which I encouraged as far as I 
could ; for no one, of course, knew that I belong to you. 
Ah ! monsieur, judging by the talk of the quayd, you 
are running your head into a noose. The fortune of 
Mademoiselle de La Basti e isj like her name, modesjt, 
The vessel on which the father returned does not belong 
to him, but to rich China merchants to whom he ren- 
ders an account. They even say things that are not 
at all flattering to Monsieur Mignon's honor. Having 
heard that you and Monsieur le due were rivals for 
Mademoiselle de La Bastie's hand, I have taken the 
liberty to warn you ; of the two, would n't it be better 
that his lordship should gobble her? As I came home 
I walked round the quays, and into that theatre-hall 
where the merchants meet ; I slipped boldly in and out 
among them. Seeing a well-dressed stranger, those 
worthy fellows began to talk to jne of Havre, and I 
got them, little by little, to speak of Colonel Mignon. 
Whatjihgy fi^irl nnly Qonfirms the fltories the fishermen 
>me; ga d I feel that I should fidl in my duty if I 



1/ 



282 Modeste Mignon. 

keep silence. That is vfhfl did not get home in time 
to dress monsieur this morning/' 

'* What am I to do? " cried Ca nalis, who remembered 
his pr<^8ais to Modeste the night before, and^d^^not 
see how he could get out of them. 

*' Monsieur knows my attachment to hitn," said Ger- 
main, perceiving that the poet was thrown quite off his 
balance; *'he will not be surprised if I give him a 
word of advice. There is that clerk ; try to get the 
truth out of him. Perhaps he '11 unbutton after a bottle 
or two of champagne, or at any rate a thii-d. It would 
be strange indeed if monsieur, who will one day be an 
ambassador, as Fhiloxene has heard Madame la du- 
chesse say time and time again, could n't turn a little 
notary's clerk inside out/' 



Modeste Mignon. 283 



CHAPTER XXIII. 

BUTSGHA DISTINGUISHES HIMSELF. 

At this instant Butscha, the hidden prompter of the 
fishing party, was requesting the secretar}" to saj^ noth- 
ing about his trip to Paris, and not to interfere in any 
way with what he, Butscha, might do. The dwarf had 
akeady made use of an unfavorable feeling lately 
roused against Monsieur Mignon in Havre in conse- 
quence of his reserve and his determination to keep 
silence as to the amount of his fortune. The persons 
who were most bitter against him even declared calum- 
niously that he had made over a large amount of prop- 
erty to Dumay to save it from the just demands of 
his associates in China. Butscha took advantage of 
tliis state of feeling. He asked the fishermen, who 
o^ed him many a good turn, to keep the secret and 
lend him their tongues. They, served him well. The 
captain of the fishing-smack told Germain that one of 
his cousins, a sailor, had just returned from Marseilles, 
where he had been paid ofi* from the brig in which Mon- 
sieur Mignon returned tp France. The brig had been 
sold to the account of some other person than Mon- 
sieur Mignon, and the cargo was onl}' worth three or 
four hundred thousand francs at the utmost 

*' Germain," said Canalis, as the valet was leaving 
the room, ^^ serve champagne and claret. A member 



-> 



^, 284 Modeste Mignon. 

\ . 

L V of the legal fraternity of Havre must cany away with 

' ' ^^ him proper ideas of a poet's hospitality. Besides, he 



\ 



\ has got a wit that is equal to Figaro's," added Canalis, 

laying his hand on the dwarfs shoulder, ^' and we must 
make it foam and sparkle with champagne ; you and 
I, Ernest, will not spare the bottle either. Faith, it is 
over two years since I 've been drunk," he added, look- 
ing at La Briere. 
f" " Not drunk with wine, you mean," said Butscha, 
^' looking keenly at him, " yes, I can believe that. You 

get drunk every day on yourself, you drin k in so much 
^raiseT' Ha, you are handsome, you are a poet, you are 
Tamons in your lifetime, you have the gift of an eloquence 
that is equal to your genius, and you please all women, 
— even my master's wife. Admired by the finest snl* 
tana-valid4 that I ever saw in my, life (and I never saw 
but her) you can, if you choose, msLvry Mademoiselle de 
La Bastie. Goodness ! the mere inventor}^ of 3'our pres- 
ent advantages, not to speak of the future (a noble title, 
peerage, embassy!), is enough to make me drunk al- 
_ ready, — like the men who bottle other men's wine." 

" All such social distinctions," said Canalis, " are ^£ 
little use without tlie one.thing.that givfii L the ga_yalue, —- 
fv^eaith. Here we can talk as men with men ; fine sen- 
timents only do in verse." 

*' That depends on circumstances," said the dwarf, 
with a knowing gesture. 

" *'Ah! you writer of conveyances," said the poet, 
smiling at the interruption, " you know as well as I do 
that cottage rhymes with pottage^ — and who would like 
to live on that for the rest of his days? " 

At table Butscha plaj'ed the part of Trigaudin, in the 



Modeste Mignon, 285 

Maison en loterie^ in a way that alarmed Ernest, who 
ilid not know the wagger}' of a lawyer's office, which 
is quite equal to that of an atelier. Butscha poured 
forth the scandalous gossip of Havre, the private his- 
tory of fortunes and boudoirs, and the crimes committed 
code in hand, which are called in Normandy, " getting 
out of a thing as best you can." He spared no one ; and 
his liveliness increased with the torrents of wine which 
poured down his throat like rain through a gutter. 

" Do 3-ou know, La Briere," said Canalis, filling 
Butscha's glass, ^^ that this fellow would make a 
capital secretary to the embassy?" 

"And oust his chief! "cried the dwarf flinging a 
look at Canalis whose insolence was lost in the gurgling 
of carbonic acid gas. " I 've little enough gratitude and 
quite enough scheming to get astride of your shoulders. 
Ha, ha, a poet carrying a hunchback ! that *s been seen^ 
often seen — on book-shelves. Come, don't look at me 
as if I were swallowing swords. My dear great genius^ 
you 're a superior man ; you know that ^graiittide 
is the word of fo ols ; they stick it in the dictionary, 
but it isn't in the huma n heart; pledges are worth 
nothing, except on a certain mount that is neither Pin- 
dus nor Parnassus. You think I owe a great deal tc 
my master's wife, who brought me up. Bless you, the 
whole town has paid her for that in prais es, respect, 
and admiration. — the ve ry best of coin. I don't recog- 
nize any service that is only the capital of self-love. 
Men make a commerce of their services, and gratitude 
goes down on the debit side, — that 's all. As to 
sdiemes, they are my divinity. What?" he exclaimed, 
at a gesture of Canalis, " don't you admire the faculty 



T' 



286 Modeste Mignon. 

which enables a wily man to get the better of a man of 
genius? it takes the closest observation of his vices, 
and his weaknesses, and the wit to seize the happy 
moment Ask diplomacy if its greatest triumphs are 
not those of craft over force ? If I were j'our secre- 
tary, Monsieur le baron, you 'd soon be prime-minister, 
because it would be my interest to have you so. Do 
you want a specimen of my talents in that line ? Well 
then, listen ; you love Mademoiselle Modeste distract- 
edlj', and you 've good reason to do so. VThe girl has 
my fullest esteem ; she is a true Parisian. Sometimes 
we get a few real Parisians bom down here in the 
provinces. Well, Modeste is just the woman to help a 
man's career. She 's got that in her," he cried, with a 
turn of his wrist in the air. "But~you 've a dangerous 
competitor in the duke ; what will you give me to get 
him out of Havre within three days?" 

^' Finish this bottle," said the poet, refilling Butscha's 
glass. 

''You'll make me drunk," said the dwarf, tossing 
off his ninth glass of champagne. ''Have you a bed 
where I could sleep it' off? My master is as sober as 
the camel that he is, and Madame Latoumelle too. 
They are brutal enough, both of them, to scold me ; 
and they'd have the rights of it too — there are those 
deeds I ought to be drawing ! — " Then, suddenly re- 
turning to his previous ideas, after the fashion of a 
drunken man, he exclaimed, "and I've such a mem- 
orj' ; it is on a par with my gratitude." 

" Butscha ! " cried the poet,"^"}^! said just now you 
had no gratitude ; yon contradict yourself." 

" Not at all," he replied. " To forget a thing means 



Modeste Mignon. 287 

almost always recollecting it. Come, come, do 3'ou 
want me to^get ^i-id of the duke? I'm cut out for a 
secretary." 

" How could you mana ge it?" said Canalis, delighted 
to fiUdThe conversation taking this turn of its own 
accord. 

" That 's n oneof your business," said the dwarf, with ^ 
a portentous hiccough. 

Butscha's head rolled between his shoulders, and his 
eyes turned from Germain to La Briere, and from La 
Bri^re to Canalis, after the manner of men who, knowing 
they are tipsy, wish to see what other men are thinking 
of them ; for in the shipwreck of drunkenness it is 
noticeable that self-love is the last thing that goes to 
the bottom. 

" Ha ! my great poet, you 're a pretty good trickster 
yourself; but you are not deep enough. What do you 
mean by taking me for one of 3*our own readers, — you, 
who sent your friend to Paris, full gallop, to inquire jiito 
the propert3i .of_yiaJdignpn family ? Ha, ha ! I hoas, 
thbu hoaxest, we hoax — Good I But do me the honor \ 
to believe that I 'm deep enough to keep the secrets of my \ V^ 
own business. As the head- clerk of a notar}', my heart 
is a locked box, padlocked I My mouth never opens to 
let out anything about a client. I know all, and I know 
nothing. Besides, my passion is well known. I lo\^e~\ 
^lodeste ; she Is my pupil, and she must make a good i 
marriage. I'll fool the duke, if need be ; and you shall ^ 
marrj- — " 

*' Germain, coffee and liqueurs," said Canalis. 

" Liqueurs ! " repeated Butscha with a wave of his 
hand, and the air of a sham virgin repelling seduction ; 



C^ 



A-" 



288 Modeste Mignon. 

"Ah, those poor deeds! one of 'em was a marriage 
contract ; and that second clerk of mine is as stupid 
as — as — an epithalamium, and he 's capable of digging 
liis penknife right through the bride's paraphernalia; 
he thinks he 's a handsome man because he 's five 'feet 
six, — idiot i " 

" Here is some cr^me de th^, a liqnenr of the West 
Indies," said Canalis. " You, whom Mademoiselle 
Modeste consults — " 

" Yes, she consults me." 

" Well, do 3'ou think she loves me?" asked the poet. 
L/ "Loves you? yes, more than she loves the duke," 

answered the dwarf, rousing himself from a stupor which 
was admirably played. " Sh^ i/^tr^a yoF^ ^^^ y^nr ^^°- 
interestedness. She told me she was readj' to make the 
greatest sacrifices for your sake ; to give up dress and 
spend as little as possible on herself, and devote her 
life to showing j'ou that in marrying her you had n't 
\ done so [hiccough] bad a thing for yourself. She's 

as right as a trivet, — yes^ and well informed. She 
knows ever3'thing, that girl." 

" And she has three hundred thousand francs? " 

*' There may be quite as much as that," cried the dwarf, 
enthusiastically. " Papa Mignon, — mignon by name, 
mignon bj' nature, and that's whj' I respect him, — well, he 
would rob himself of everything to marry his daughter. 
Your Restoration [hiccough] has taught him how to 
live on half-pay ; he 'd be quite content to live with 
Dumay on next to nothing, if he could rake and scrape 
enough together to give the little one three hundred 
thousand francs. But don't let 's forget that Dumay is 
going to leave all his money to Modeste. Dumaj^ you 



% 



y ^ 



V 

X 



Modeste Mignon. 28b 

know, is a Breton, and that fact clinches the matter ; he 
won't go back from his word, and his fortune is equal to 
the colonel's. But I don't approve of Monsieur Mignon's 
taking back that villa, and, as the}' ojften ask my advice, 
I told them so. * You sink too much in it,' I said ; * if Vil- 
quin does not buy it back there 's two hundred thousand ^ \\ 

francs which won't bring you in a penny ; it only leaves 
you a hundred thousand to get along with, and it is n't 
enough.' The colonel and Dumay are consulting about < \^ 
it now. But nevertheless, between you and me, Mo- ^V 
dcste is sure to be rich. I hear talk on the quays ' ^ 
against it; but that's all nonsense ; people are jealous. 
Why, there's no such dot in Havre," cried Butscha, 
beginning to count on his fingers. . "Two to three \^ 
hundred thousand in ready money," bending back the 
thumb of his lefb hand with the forefinger of his right, 
*' that's one item; the reversion of the villa Mignon, 
that's another; tertiOj Dumay's property!" doubling 
down his middle finger. '^ Ha ! little Modeste maj' 
count upon her six hundred thousand francs as soon as 
the two old soldiers have got their marching orders for 
eternity." 

This coarse and candid statement intermingled with 
a variety of liquors, sobered Canalis as much as it 
appeared to befuddle Butscha. To the latter, a young 
provincial, such a fortune must of course seem colossal. 
He let his head fall into the palm of his right hand, and 
putting his elbows majestically on the table, blinked his 
e^'es and continued talking to himself: — 

** In twenty 3'ears, thanks to that Code, which pillages 
fortunes under what they call ' Successions,' an heiress 
worth a million will be as rare as generositj'^ in a money- 

19 



290 Modeste Mtgnon. 

lender. Suppose Modeste does want to spend all the 
interest of her own mone}', — well, she is* so pretty, so 
sweet and pretty ; why she 's — you poets are always af- 
ter metaphors — she 's a weasel as tricky as a monkey." 

''How came you to tell me she had six millions?" 
said Canalis to La Briere, in a low voice. 

" My friend," said Ernest, " I do assure you that I 
was bound to silence by an oath ; perhaps, even now 
I ought not to say as much as that." 

"Bound! to whom?" 

**To Monsieur Mignon." 
\ p-*' Ernest! you who know how essential fortune is 
* J to me — " 

Butscha snored. 

" — who know my situation, and all that I shall 
lose in the Duchesse de Chaulieu, by this attempt at 
marrying, you could coldly let me plunge into such a 
thing as this ! " exclaimed Canalis, turning pale. '' It 
was a question of friendship ; and ours was a compact 
entered into long before you ever saw that crafty 
Mignon." 

" My dear fellow," said Ernest, " I love Modeste too 
well to — " 

"Fool! then take her," cried the poet, "and break 
your oath." 

"Will you promise me on your word of honor to 
forget what I now tell you, and to behave to me as 
though this confidence had never been made, whatever 
happens?" 

" I '11 swear that, by my mother's memory." 

"Well then," said La Briere, "Monsieur Mignon 
told me in Paris that he was very far from having the 



Modeste Mignon. 291 

colossal fortune which the Mongenods told me about 
and which I mentioned to you. The colonel intends to 
give two hundred thousand francs to his daughter. 
And now, Melchior, I ask jou, was the father .really 
( |istrustfnl of us, as y on tho ug ht ; or was he sincere ?. 
It is not for me to answer those questions. If Modeste 
without a fortune deigns to choose me, she will be my 
wife." 

^^ A blue-stocking ! educated till she is a terror ! a 
girl who has read everything, who knows everything, — 
in theory," cried Canalis, hastily, noticing La Briere's 
gesture, ^^ a spoiled child, brou^t up in luxury in her 
childhood, and weaned of it for ^\e years. Ah ! my 
poor friend, take care what you are about." 

" Ode and Code," said Butscha, waking up, " you do 
the ode and I the code ; there 's only a C's difference 
between us. Well, now, code comes from coda, a tail, 

— mark that word ! See here ! a bit of good advice is 
worth your wine and your cream of tea. Father Mignon 

— he 's cream, too ; the cream of honest men — he is 
going with his daughter on this riding party ; do you 
go up frankly and talk dot to him. He '11 answer plaink, 
and you ^U get at the truth just as surely as I 'm drunk, 
and you 're a great poet, — but no matter for that ; we 
are to leave Havre together, that 's settled, is n't it ? 
I 'm to be your secretary in place of that little fellow 
who sits there grinning at me and thinking I 'm drunk. 
Come, let's go, and leave him to marry the girl." 

Canalis rose to leave the room to dress for the 
excursion. 

"Hush, not a word, — he is going to commit sui- 
cide," whispered Butscha, sober as a judge, to La 



292 Modeste Mignon. 

Briere as he made the gesture of a street boy at Ca- 
nalis's' back. *^ Adiea, my chief! " he shouted, in 
stentorian tones, ^^ will you allow me to take a snooze 
in that kiosk down in the garden? " 

" Make yourself at home," answered the poet. 

Butscha, pursued by the laughter of the three ser- 
vants of the establishment, gained the kiosk by walking 
over the flower-beds and round the vases with the per- 
verse grace of an insect describing its interminable zig- 
zags as it tries to get out of a closed window. When 
he had clambered into the kiosk, and the servants had 
retired, he sat down on a wooden bench and wallowed 
in the delights of his triumph. He had completely 
fooled a great man ; he had not only torn off his mask, 
but he had made him untie the strings himself; and he 
laughed like an author over his own play, — that is to 
say, with a true sense of the immense value of his 
vis comica. 

" Men are tops ! " he cried, " 3'ou 've only to find 
the twine to wind 'em with. But I 'm like my fellows,"* 
he added, presently. " I should faint away if any one 
came and said to me ^ Mademoiselle Modeste has been 
thrown from her horse, and has broken her leg.' " 



Modeste Mignon. 293 



CHAPTER XXIV. 

THE POET FEELS THAT HE IS LOVED TOO WELL. 

An hoar later, Modeste, charmingly equipped in a 
bottle-green cassimere habit, a small hat with a green 
veil, buckskin gloves, and velvet boots which met the 
lace frills of her drawers, and mounted on an elegantly 
caparisoned little horse, was exhibiting to her father 
and the Dae d' Herouville the beautiful present she had 
just received ; she was evidently delighted with an at- 
tention of a kind that particularly flatters women. 

^' Did it come from you, Monsieur le due? " she said, 
holding the sparkling handle toward him. "There 
was a card with it, saying, ' Guess if you can,' and 
" some asterisks. Fran9oise and Dumay credit Butscha 
with this charming surprise ; but my dear Butscha is 
not rich enough to buy such rubies. And as for papa 
(to whom I said, as I remember, on Sunday evening, 
that I had no whip), he sent to Rouen for this one," 
— pointing to a whip in her father's hand, with a top 
like a cone of turquoise, a fashion then in vogue which 
has since become vulgar. 

"I would give ten years of my old age, mademoiselle, 
to have the right to offer you that beautiful jewel," said 
the duke, courteously. 

"Ah, here comes the audacious giver!" cried Mo- 
deste, as Canalis rode up. **It is only a poet who 



294 Modeste Mignon. 

knows where to find such choice things. Monsieur," she 
said to Melchior, " my father will scold jou, and saj' that 
3*ou justify those who accuse jou of extravagance." 

"Oh!" exclaimed Canalis, with apparent simplicitj', 
''so that is why La Briere rode at full gallop from 
Havre to Paris?" 

"Does your secretary take such liberties?" said 
Modeste, turning pale, and throwing the whip to Fran- 
9oise with an impetuosity that expressed scorn. ^ Give 
me your whip, papa." 

''Poor Ernest, who lies there on his bed half-dead 
with fatigue ! " said Canalis, overtaking the girl, who 
had already started at a gallop. " You are pitiless, ma- 
demoiselle. 'I have' (the poor fellow said to me) 
' only this one chance to remain in her memory.' " 

" And should you think well of a woman who could 
take presents from half the parish? " said Modeste. 

She was surprised to receive no answer to this in- 
quiry, and attributed the poet's inattention to the noise 
of the horse's feet. 

"How you delight in tormenting those who love 
you," said the duke. "Your nobility of soul and jour 
pride are so inconsistent with your faults that I begin to 
suspect you calumniate yourself, and do those naughtj- 
things on purpose." 

" Ah ! have you only just found that out, Monsienr 
le due?" she exclaimed, laughing. "You have the 
sagacity of a husband." 

They rode half a mile in silence. Modeste was a 
good deal astonished not to receive the fire of the poet's 
eyes. The evening before, as she was pointing out to 
him an admirable effect of setting sunlight across the 



Mode8te Mignon. 



295 



water, she had said, remarking his inattention, " Well, 
don't you see it?" — to which he replied, "I can see 
only your hand ; " but now his admiration for the beau- 
ties of nature seemed a little too intense to be natural. 

** Does Monsieur de La Briere know how to ride ? " 
she asked, for the purpose of teasing him. 

''Not very well, but he gets along," answered the 
poet, cold as Gobenheim before the colonel's return. 

At a cross-road, which Monsieur Mignon made them 
take through a lovely valley to reach a height overlook- 
ing the Seine, Canalis let Modeste and the duke pass 
him, and then reined up to join the colonel. 

** Monsieur le comte,",he said, "you are an open^ 
hearted soldier, and I know you will regard my frank- 
ness as a title to your esteem. When proposals of 
marriage, with all their brutal — or, if you please, too 
civilized — discussions, are carried on by third parties, 
it is an injury to all. We are both gentlemen, and both 
discreet ; and you, like myself, have passed beyond the \y 
age of surprises. Let us therefore speak as intimates. 
I will set you the example. I am twenty-nine 3 ears 
old, without landed estates, and full of ambition. Ma- 
demoiselle Modeste, as 3'ou must have perceived, pleases 
me extremely. Now, in spite of the little defects which 
your dear girl likes to assume — " 

t* — not counting those she really possesses," said 
the colonel, smiling, — 

" — I should gladly make her my wife, and I believe 
I could render her happy. The, question of monej' is 
^fJihP "^"^^?t. jirp^^Q^or. to my future, which hangs' 
tO:^y in tiho-Jaal^ngfi. All young girls expect to be 
loved whether or no — fortune or no fortune. But you 



\^ 



A 



\^ 









^r- 



I" 



\ 

1 



296 Modette Mignon. 

are not the man to maxifh^oar dear Modeste without a 
dot^ and my situation does not allow me to make a 
marriage of what is catted love unless with a woman 
who has a fortune at least equal to mine. I have, from 
my emoluments and sinecures, from the Academy and 
from my works, about thirty thousand francs a-year, a 
large income for a bachelor. If my wife brought me as 
much more, I should still be in about the same condi- 
tion that I am now. Shall you give Mademoiselle 
Modeste a million?" 

*'*' Ah, monsieur, we have not reached that point as 
3'et," said the colonel, jesultically. 

'* Then suppose," said Canalii^, quickly, " that we go 
no further; we will let the matter drop. You shall 
have no cause to complain of me. Monsieur le comte ; 
the world shall consider me among; the unfortunate suit- 
ors of your charming daughter. Give me your word of 
honor to say nothing on the subject to any one, not 
even to Mademoiselle Modeste, because," he added, 
throwing a word of promise to the ear, "myjeircum- 
atgndes may so changejhatlcan ask you forJifiF-wrdi- 
-out^o^."^ '^ 

'' I promise you that," said the colonel. " You know, 
monsieur, with what assurance the public, both in Paris 
and the provinces, talk of foitunes that the}' make and 
unmake. People exaggerate both happiness and un- 
happiness ; we are never so fortbnate nor so unfortu- 
nate as people say we are. There is nothing sure and 
certain in business except investments in land. I am 
awaiting the accounts of my agents with very great im- 
patience. The sale of my merchandise and of mj' ship, 
and the settlement of my affairs in China, are not yet 



Modeste Mignon, 297 

concluded; and I cannot Miqw the fhll amount of 
my fortune for at least six months. I did, however, 
say to Monsieur de La Bri^re in Paris that I would 
guarantee a dot of two hundred thousand francs in 
ready money. I wish to entail my estates, and enable 
my grandchildren to inherit my arms and title." 

Canalis did not listen to this statement after the 
opening sentence. The four riders, having now reached 
a wider road, went abreast and soon reached a stretch 
of table-land, from which the eye took in on one side 
the rich valley of the Seine toward Rouen, and on the 
other an horizon bounded only by the sea. 

^' Bntscha was right, God is the greatest of all land- 
scape painters," said Canalis, contemplating the view, 
which is unique among the many fine scenes that have 
made the shores of the Seine so justly celebrated. 

" Above all do we feel that, my dear baron," said 
the duke, ^^ on hunting-days, when nature has a voice, 
and a lively tumult breaks the silence ; at such times 
the landscape, changing rapidly as we ride through it, 
seems really sublime." 

^^ The sun is the inexhaustible palette," said Modeste, 
looking at the poet in a species of bewilderment. 

A remark that she presently made on his absence of 
mind gave him an opportunity of saying that he was 
just then absorbed in his own thoughts, — an excuse that 
authors have more reason for giving than other men. 

" Are we really made happy by carrying our lives 
into the midst of the world, and swelling them with all 
sorts of fictitious wants and over-excited vanities?" 
said Modeste, moved by the aspect of the fertile and 
billowy country to long for a philosophically tranquil life. 



298 Modeste Mignon. 

^^That is a bucolic, mademoiselle, which is onlj* 
written on tablets of gold," said the poet. 

^^ And sometimes mider garret-roofs," remarked the 
colonel. 

Modeste threw a piercing glance at Canalis, which he 
was unable to sustain ; she was conscious of a ringing 
in her ears, darkness seemed to spread before her, and 
then she suddenly exclaimed in icy tones : — 

"Ah! it is Wednesday ! " 

" I do not say this to flatter your passing caprice, 
mademoiselle," said the duke, to whom the little scene, 
so tragical for Modeste, had left time for thought ; " but 
I declare I am so profoundly disgusted with the world 
and the Court and Paris, that had I a Duchesse 
d*H^rouville, gifted with the wit and graces of made- 
moiselle, I would gladly bind myself to live like a 
philosopher at my chateau, doing good around me, 
draining my marshes, educating my children — " 

" That, Monsieur le due, will be set to the account of 
3'our great goodness," said Modeste, letting her eyes 
rest steadily on the noble gentleman. " You flatter me 
in not thinking me jrivdlqu s, and in believing that I 
have enough resources within myself to be able to live 
in «olitude. It is perhaps my lot," she added, glancing 
at Canalis, with an expression of pity. 

" It is the lot of all insignificant fortunes," said the 
poet. "Paris demands Babylonian splendor. Some- 
times I ask myself how I have ever managed to keep 
it up." 

" The king does that for both of us," said the duke, 
candidly; " we live on his Majesty's bounty. If my 
fcimily had not been allowed, after the death of Monsieiu* 



Modeste Mignon. 299 

le Grand, as they called Cinq-Mars, to keep his office I r i^ 
among us, we should have been obliged to sell Herou-^^ \\''^. 



■r\^ 



ville to the Black Brethren. Ah, believe me, made- l*^ i 
moiselle, it is a bitter humiliation to me to have to think V\/fV ^ 
of money in marrj'ing." v 

The simple honesty of this confession came from his 
heart, and the regret was so sincere that it touched 
Modeste. 

" In these days," said the poet, *' no man in France, 
Monsieur le due, is rich enough to marry a woman for 
herself, her personal worth, her grace, or her beauty — " 

The colonel looked at Canalis with a curious eye, after 
first watching Modeste, whose face no longer expressed 
the slightest astonishment. 

" For persons of high honor," he said slowly, " it 
is a noble employment of wealth to repair the ravages 
of time and destiny, and restore the old historic 
families." 

" Yes, papa," said Modeste, gravely. 

The colonel invited the duke and Canalis to dine with 
him sociably in their riding-dress, promising them to 
make no change himself. Wl*en Modeste went to her 
room to make her toilette, she looked at the jewelled 
whip she had disdained in the morning. • 

" What workmanship they pot into such things nowa- 
daj^s ! " she said to Fran^oise Cochet, who had become 
her waiting-maid. 

^^ That poor 3'oung man, mademoiselle, who has got 
a fever — " 

"Who told you that?" 

*' Monsieur Butscha. He came here this afternoon 
and asked me to say to you that he hoped you 



800 Modeste Mignon. 

would notice he had kept his word on the appointed 
day." 

Modeste came down into the salon dressed with ro3'al 
simplicity. 

^^ My dear father/' she said aloud, taking the colonel 
by the arm, '^ please go and ask after Monsieur de La 
Briere's health, and take him back his present. You 
can say that my small means, as well as my natural 
tastes, forbid my wearing ornaments which are only 
suitable for queens or courtesans. Besides, I can only 
accept gifts from a bridegroom. Beg him to keep the 
whip until you know whether you are rich enough to 
buy it back." J 

*^M y little jg^rl has plenty of^gaQd_gense," said the 
colonel, kissing his daughter on the forehead. 

Canalis took advantage of a conversation which be- 
gan between the duke and Madame Mignon to escape 
to the terrace, where Modeste joined him, influenced by 
curiosity, though the poet believed her desire to become 
Madame de Canalis had brought her there. Bather 
alarmed at the indecency with which he had just exe- 
cuted what soldiers call a voUe-face^ and which, accord- 
ing to the laws of ambition, every man in his position 
would have executed quite as brutally, he now endeav- 
ored, as the unfortunate Modeste approached him, to 
find plausible excuses for his conduct. 

** Dear Modeste,'' he began, in a coaxing tone, •' con- 
sidering the terms on which we stand to each other, 
shall I displease you if I say that your replies to the 
Due d'Herouville were very painful to a man in love, — 
above all, to a poet whose soul is feminine, ner^'ous, full 
of the jealousies of true passion. I should make a poor 



Modeste Mignon, 301 

diplomatist indeed if I had not perceived that your 
first coquetries, your little premeditated inconsistencies, 
were only assumed for the purpose of studying our 
characters — " ' 

Modeste raised her head with the rapid, intelligent, 
half-coquettish motion of a wild animal, in whom in- 
stinct produces such miracles of grace. 

<« — and therefore when I returned home and thought 
them over, they never misled me. I only marvelled at 
a cleverness so in harmony with your character and 
your countenance. Do not be uneasy, I never doubted 
that your assumed duplicity covered an angelic candor. 
No, your mind, your education, have in no way lessened 
the precious innocence which we demand in a wife. You 
are indeed a jyife for a poe t, a diplomatist, a thinker, a 
man dest ined to endure the chances and changes of 
life_; and my admiration is equalled only by the attach- 
ment I feel to you, I now entreat you — if yesterday 
you were not playing a little comedy when you accepted 
the love of a man whose vanity will change to pride if 
3'ou accept him, one whose defects will become virtues 
under your divine influence — I entreat you do not ex- 
cite a passion which, in him, amounts to vice. Jeal- 
ousy is a noxious element in my soul, and 3'ou have 
revealed to me its strength ; it is awful, it destroys 
everything — Oh! I do not mean the jealousy of 
an Othello," he continued, noticing Modeste's gesture. 
" No, no ; my thoughts were of myself: I have been so 
indulged on that point. You know the affection to 
which I owe all the happiness I have ever enjoyed, 
— very little at the best [he sadl^' shook his head]. 
Love is sj-mbolized among all nations as a child, 



802 Modeste Mignon. 

because it fancies the world belongs to it, and it cannot 
conceive otherwise. Well, Nature her self set the limit 
t o that s entiment. It was still-bom. XTSntter, mater- 
nal soulguessed and calmed the painful - constriction of 
my heart, — for a woman who feels, who knows, that she 
is past the joys of love becomes angelic in her treat- 
ment of others. The duchess has never made me suffer 
in my sensibilities. For ten years not a word, not a 
look, that could wound me I I attach more value to 
words, to thoughts, to looks, than ordinary men. If a 
look is to me a treasure beyond all price, the slightest 
doubt is deadly poison ; it acts instantaneously, my love 
dies. I believe — contrary to the mass of men, who 
delight in trembling, hoping, expecting — that love can 
only exist in perfect, infantile, and infinite securitj*. 
The exquisite purgatory, where women delight to send 
us by their coquetry, is a base happiness to which I will 
not submit : to me, love is ei ther heaven or hell. K it 
is hell, I will have none of it. I feel anlffldiiify with the 
azure skies of Paradise within my soul. I can give my- 
self without reserve, without secrets, doubts or decep- 
tions, in the life to come ; and I demand reciprocity. 
Perhaps I offend 3'ou by these doubts. Remember, 
however, that I am only talking of myself — " 

'* — a good deal, but never too much," said Modeste, 
offended in every hole and corner of her pride by this 
discourse, in which the Duchesse de Chaulieu ser^^ed as 
A d&gg^i** ^^1 Aiii so accustomed to admire you, my 
dear poet." 

*' Well then, can you promise me the same canine 
fidelity which I offer to 3'ou? Is it not beautiful? Is 
it not just what 3'ou have longed for?" 



Modeste Mtgnon. 803 

"But why, dear poet, do j^ou not marry a deaf- 
mute, and one who is also something of an idiot? I ask 
notibiing better than to please my husband. But you 
threaten to take away from a girl the very happiness 
you so kindly arrange for her; you are tearing away 
every gesture, every word, every look; you cut the 
wings of your bird, and then expect it to hover about 
you. I know poets are accused of inconsistency — oh ! 
very unjustly, " she added, as Canalis made a gesture 
of denial ; "that alleged defect comes from the brilliant 
activity of their minds which commonplace people can- 
not take into account. I do not believe, however, that 
a man of genius can invent such irreconcilable con- 
ditions and call his invention life. You are requiring 
the impossible solely for the pleasure of putting me in 
the wrong, — Uke the enchanters in fairy-tales, who set 
tasks to persecuted young girls whom the good fairies 
come and deliver." 

" In this case the good fairy would be true love," said 
Canalis in a curt tone, aware that his elaborate excuse 
for a rupture was seen through by the keen and delicate 
mifid which Butscha had piloted so well. 

*' My dear poet, you remind me of those fathers who 
inquire into a girl's dot before they are willing to name 
that of their son. You are quanrelling with me without 
knowing whether you have the slightest right to do so. 
Love is not gained by such dry arguments as yours. 
The poor duke on the contrary abandons himself to it 
like my Uncle Toby ; with this difference, that I am not 
the Widow Wadman, — though widow indeed of many 
illusions as to poetry at the present moment Ah, yes, 
we young girls will not believe in anything that disturbs 



—7 



801 Modeste Mignon, 

our world of fancy ! I was warned of all this before- 
hand. My dear poet, yon are attempting to get up a 
quarrel which is unworthy of yoa. I no longer recog- 
nize the Melchior of yesterday." 

*' Because Melchior has discovered a spirit of ambi- 
tion in you which — " 

Modeste looked at him from head to foot with an im- 
perial eye. 

^^ But I shall be peer of France and ambassador as 
well as he," added Canalis. 

"You take me for a bourgeoise," she said, beginning 
to mount the steps of the portico ; but she instantly 
turned back and added, " That is less impertinent than 
to take me for a fool. The change in your conduct comes 
from certain silly rumors which you have heard in Havre, 
and which my maid Fran9oise has repeated to me." 

'* Ah, Modeste ! how can you think it ? " said Canalis, 
striking a dramatic attitude. " Do you think me ca- 
pable of marrying you only for youx money ? " 

"If I do you that wrong after 3'our edifying remarks 
on the banks of the Seine you can easiij' undeceive me," 
she said, annihilating him with her scorn. 

" Ah ! " thought the poet, as he followed her into the 
house, "if you think, my little girl, that I'm to be 
caught in that net, joxjl take me to be younger than I 
am. Dear, dear, what a fuss about an artful little 
thing whose esteem I value about as much as that of 
the king of Borneo. But she has given me a good 
reason for the rupture by accusing me of such un- 
wortiiy sentiments. Is n*t she sl\'? La Bii^e will get 
a burden on his back — idiot t hat h e is ! And five year s 
hence it will be a good joke to see them together." 



Modeate Mignon, 305 



The coldness which this altercation produced between 
Modeste and Canalis was visible to all eyes that even- 
ing. The poet went off early, on the ground of La 
Briere's illness, leaving the field to the grand equerry. 
About eleven o'clock Butscha, who had come to walk 
home with Madame Latournelle, whispered in Modeste's 
ear, " Was I right? " . '^' 

^* Alas, gg s/* she said. ^-^ 

*'Bnt I hope you have left the door half open, so 
that he can come back; we agreed upon that, you 
know." 

* * Anger got the better of me," said Modeste. " Such 
meanness sent the blood to my head and I told him what 
I thought of him." 

** Well, so much the better. When you are both so 
angrj^ that you can't speak civilly to each other I en- 
gage to make him desperately in love and so pressing 
that you will be deceived yourself." 

'' Come, come, Butscha ; he is a great poet ; he is a 
gentleman ; he is a man of intellect." 

'*,Your father's eight millions are more to him than 
all that." 

'* Eightjmllians ! " exclaimed Modeste. 

'* My master, who has sold his practice, is going to 
Provence to attend to the purchase of lands which your 
father's agent has suggested to him. The sum that is 
to be paid for the estate^of La Bastie is four millions ; 
your father has agreed to it You are to have a dot of 
two millions and another million for an establishment in 
Paris, a h6tel and furniture. Now, count up." 

'* Ah ! then I can be Duchesse d'H^rouville ! " cried 
Modeste, glancing at Butscha. 

20 



V 



806 Modeste Mignon. 

" If it had n't been for that comedian of a Canalis 
you would have kept hia whip, thinking it came from 
me," said the dwarf, indirectly pleading La Briere's 
cause. 

" Monsieur Butscha, may I ask if I am to marry to 
please you ? " said Modeste, laughing. 

"That fine fellow loves you as well as I do, — and 
you loved him for eight days," retorted Butscha ; " and 
?ie has got a heart." 

"Can he compete, pray, with an office under the 
Crown? There are but six, grand almoner, chancel- 
lor, grand chamberlain, grand master, high constable, 
grand admiral, — but they don't appoint high constables 
any longer." 

"In six months, mademoiselle the masses — who 
are made up of wicked Butschas — could send all those 
grand dignities to the winds. Besides, what signifies 
nobility in these days? There are not a thousand real 
noblemen in France. The d'Herouvilles are descended 
from a tipstaff in the time of Robert of Normandy. 
You will have to put up with many a vexation from 
that old aunt with the furrowed face. Look here, — as 
you are so anxious for the title of duchess, — you be- 
long to the Comtat, and the Pope will certainly think as 
jmxxch of you as he does of all those merchants down 
there ; he '11 sell you a duchy with some name ending 
in ia or agno. Don't play away your happiness for an 
office under the Crown.'* 



Modeste Mignon. 307 



L.;:.v 



CHAPTER XXV. 

A DIPLOMATIC LETTER. 

The poet's reflections during the night were thor- 
oughly matter-of-fact. He sincerely saw nothing worse y^^ 

in^jifj^t^a-n thft Rit.nall-.mTTr7^"a ImftriHpH man without , . 

TTTonft y- ^^ till trembling at the danger he had been led ?\ F\f 
into by his vanity, his desire to get the better of the 
duke, and his belief in the Mignon millions, he began 
to ask himself what the duchess must be thinking of his 
stay in Havre, aggravated b}^ the fact that he had not 
written to her for fourteen days, whereas in Paris they 
exchanged four or five letters a week. 

" And that poor woman is working hard to get me 
appointed commander of the Legion and ambassador to 
the Court of Baden ! " he cried. 

Thereupon, with that promptitude of decision which 
results — in poets as well as in speculators — from a 
lively intuition of the future, he sat down and composed 
the following letter : — 

To Madame la Ihichesse de Chaulieu : 
My dear El^onore, — You have doubtless been sur- 
prised at not hearing from me; but the stay I am 
making in this place is not altogether on account of 
my health. I have been trjing to do a good turn to 
our little friend La Briere. The poor fellow has fallen 



c 



308 Modeste Mignon. 

in love with a certain Mademoiselle Modeste de La 
Bastie, a rather pale, insignificant, and thread-papery 
little thingr"who, by the way, has the vice of liki ng 
literature^ and .calls herself a poet to_exc use th e ca- 
prices and humors ^of a rather sullen nature. Yoii 
know Ernest, — he is so easy to catch that t have been 
afraid to leave him to himself. Mademoiselle de La 
Bastie was inclined to coquet with your Melchior, and 
was only too ready to become your rival, though her 
arms are thin, and she has n o more bust jhan most 
^rls; moreover, her hair is, as dead and cplorJe ss as^ 
that of Madaine de Bochefide, and he r ej^es sm all, gray, 
and very suspicious. I put a stop — perhaps rather bra- 
tally — to the attentions of Mademoiselle Immodoste ; 
but love, such as mine for you, demanded it. What 
care I for all the women on earth, — compared to you, 
— -What are they? 

The people with whom I pass my time, and who form 
the circle round the heiress, are so thoroughly bourgeois 
that Jihex al^iPsi.tePJJ^Z stomach. Pity me ; imagine ! 
I pass my evenings with notaries, notaresses, cashiem, 
provincial money-lenders — ah ! what a change from my 
evenings in the rue de Grenelle. The alleged fortune 
of the father, lately returned from China, has brought 
to Havre that indefatigable suitor, the grand equerry, 
hungry after the millions, which he wants, they say, to 
drain his marshes. The king does not know what a 
fatal present he made the duke in tho'se waste lands. 
His Grace, who has not yet found out that the lady has 
only a small fortune, is jealous of me; for La Briere is 
quietly making progress with his idol under cover of his 
friend, who serves as a blind. 



Modeste Mignan. 309 

Notwithstanding Ernest's romantic ecstasies, I my- 
self, a poet, think chiefly of the essential thing, and I 
have been making some inquiiies which darken the 
prospects of our friend. If my angel would like abso- 
lution for some of our little sins, will she try to find out 
the facts of the case by sending for Mongenod, the 
banker, and questioning him^ with the dexterity that 
characterizes her, as to the father's fortune? Monsieur 
Mignon, formerly colonel of cavalry in the Imperial 
guard, has been for the last seven years a correspon- 
dent of the Mongenods. It is said that he gives his 
daughter a dot of two htnidred~^ousand francs, and 
"beiore I mak g the off ftr on Ernest's behalf I am anxious 
Jfl g?t tih^ yigh*M of fiio flfory As soou as thc affair is 
arranged I shall return to Paris. I know a way to 
settle everything to the advantage of our young lover, — 
simply by the transmission of the father-in-law's title, 
and no one, I think, can more readily obtain that favor 
than Ernest, both on account of his own services and 
the influence which you and I and the duke can exert 
for him. With his tastes, Ernest, who of course will 
step into my office when I go to Baden, will be perfectly 
happy in Paris with twenty-five thousand francs a year, 
a permanent place, and a wife — luckless fellow ! \ 

Ah, dearest, how I long for the rue de Crenelle ! 
Fifteen days of absence I when they do not kill love, v^ 
they revive all the ardor of its earlier days, and you ^ ^ 
know, better than I, pertiaps, the reasons that make my %^ 
love eternal, — my bones will love thee in the grave ! 
Ah ! I cannot bear this separation. If I am forced to 
stay here another ten days, I shall make a flying visit 
of a few hours to Paris. 



810 Modeste Mignon, 

Has the duke obtained for me the thing we wanted ; 
and shall you, my dearest life, be ordered to drink 
the Baden waters next year? The billing and cooiug 
of the " handsome disconsolate/' compared with the ac- 
cents of our happy love — so true and changeless for 
now ten years ! — have given me a great contempt for 
marriage. I had never seen the thing so near. Ah, 
deai-est I what the world calls a " false step " brings two 
beings nearer together than the law — does it not? 

The concluding idea served as a text for two pages 
of reminiscences and aspirations a little too confidential 
for publication. 

The evening before the day on which Canalis put 
the above epistle into the post, Butscha, under the 
name of Jean Jacmin, had received a letter from his 
fictitious cousin, Fhiloxene, and had mailed his answer, 
which thus preceded the letter of the poet by about 
twelve hours. Terribly anxious for the last two weeks, 
and wounded by Melchior's silence, the duchess herself 
dictated Philoxene's letter to her cousin, and the mo- 
ment she had read the answer, rather too explicit for 
her quinquagenary vanity, she sent for the banker and 
made close jnquiries as to the exact foi'tuireritflilon- 
sieur 'Mignon. Finding berself betra3^ed and aban.- 
doned for the millions, Eleonore gave way to a paroxj^sm 
of anger, hatred, and cold yindictiYeness. Philoxene 
knocked at the door of the sumptuous room, and en- 
tering found her mistress with her eyes full of tears, — 
so unprecedented a phenomenon in the fifteen years she 
had waited upon her that the woman stopped short 
stii[)efied 



Modeste Mignon. 311 

** We expiate the happiness of ten years in ten min- 
utes," she heard the duchess say. 

" A letter from Havre, madame." 

El^onore read the poet's prose without noticing the 
presence of Philoxene, whose amazement became still 
greater when she saw the dawn of fresh serenity on the 
duchess's face as she read further and further into the 
letter. Hold out a pole no thicker than a walking-stick 
to a drowning man, and he will think it a high-road of 
safety. The happy El^onore believed in Canalis's good 
faith when she had read through the four pages in 
which Jove and business, falsehood and truth^ jostled 
e ach other. She who, a few moments earlier^fiSd" senl ' 
for her husband to prevent Melchior's appointment 
while there was still time, was now seized with a spirit 
of generosity that amounted almost to the sublime. | 

" Poor fellow ! " she thought ; " he has not had one / 
faithless thought ; he loves me as he did on the first ; 
da\' ; he tells me all — Philoxene ! " she cried, noticing 
her maid, who was standing near and pretending to 
arrange the toilet-table. 

' ^ Madame la duchesse ? " 

"A mirror, child! " 

i^l^onore looked at herself, saw the fine razor-like 
lines traced on her brow, which disappeared at a little 
distance ; she sighed, and in that sigh she felt she bade 
adieu to love. A brave thought came into her mind, a 
manly thought, outside of all the pettiness of women, — 
a thought which intoxicates for a moment, and which 
explains, perhaps, the clemency of the Semiramis of 
Russia when she married her young and beautiful rival 
to Momonoff. 



^ 



312 Modeste Mignon. 

^^ ^^^ JiaJb*^ ^^^' l^ftnn £ftit.h1pf^gj hejili all have the 
giriand her miUionSj" she thoug htj — /^ prov ided Made- 

Thice'ri^s, circumspectly given, announced the duke, 
and his wife went herself to t^he door to let him in. 

" Ah I I see jou are better, my dear," he cried, with 
the counterfeit joy that courtiers assume so easily, and 
by which fools are so readily taken in. 

*' My dear Henri," she answered, " why is it you 
have not yet obtained that appointment for Melchior, 
— you who sacrificed so much to the king in taking a 
ministry which 3'ou knew could only last one year." 

The duke glanced at Philoxene, who showed him by 
an almost imperceptible sign the letter from Havre on 
the dressing-table. 

" You would be terribly bored at Baden and come 
back at daggers drawn with Melchior," said the duke. 

"Pray why?" 

" Why, you would always be together," said the 
former diplomat, with comic good-humor. 

"Oh, no," she said ; " I am going to marry him." 

"If we can believe d'H^rouville, our dear Canalis 
stands in no need of 3'our help in that direction," said 
the duke, smiling. " Yesterda}' Grandlieu read me 
some passages from a letter the grand equerry had 
written him. No doubt thej' were dictated by the aunt 
for the express purpose of their reaching you, for 
Mademoiselle d'H^rouville, always on the scent of a 
dot, knows that Grandlieu and I play whist nearly every 
evening. That good little d'H^rouville wants the Prince 
de Cadignan to go down and give a royal hunt in Nor- 
mandy, and endeavor to persuade the king to be pres- 



Modeste Mignon. 813 

ent, so as to torn the head of the damozel when she 
sees herself the object of such a grand affair. In short, 
two words from Charles X. would settle the matter. 
d'Herouville says the girl has incomparable beautj- — " 

" Henri, let us go to Havre I " cried the duchess, 
interrupting him. 

'' Under what pretext? " said her husband, gravely ; 
he was one of the confidants of Louis XVIIl. 

" I never saw a hunt" 

^* It would be all very well if the king went ; but it 
is a terrible bore to go so far, and he will not do it ; I 
have just been speaking with him about it." 

" Perhaps Madame would go? " 

*' That would be better," returned the duke, " I dare 
say the Duchesse de Maufrigneuse would help yon to 
persuade her from Rosny. If she goes the king will not 
be displeased at the use of his hunting equipage. Don't 
go to Havre, my dear," added the duke, paternally, 
" that would be giving yourself away. Come, here's a 
better plan, I think. Gaspard's chateau of Rosembray 
is on the other side of the forest of Brotonne ; why not 
give him a hint to invite the whole party?" 

" He invite them? " said i^l^onore. 

*^ I mean, of course, the duchess ; she is always 
engaged in pious works with Mademoiselle d'HerouviUe ; 
give that old maid a hint, and get her to speak to 
Gaspard." 

" You are a love of a man," cried i^leonore ; *' I '11 
write to the old maid and to Diane at once, for we 
must get hunting things made, — a riding hat is so 
becoming. Did you win last night at the English 
embassy?" 



814 Modeste Mignon. 

" Yes,'* said the duke ; " I cleared mj'self." 
"Henri, above all things, stop proceedings about 
Melchior's two appointments." 

After writing half a dozen lines to the beautiful 
Diane de Maufrigneuse, and a short hint to Mademoi- 
selle d'Herouville, Eleonore sent the following answer 
like the lash of a whip through the poet's lies. 

To Monsieur le Baron de Canalis : — 

My dear poet, — Mademoiselle de La Bastie is very 
beautiful ; Mongenod has proved to me that her father 
has millions. I did think of marrying you to her ; I am 
therefore much displeased at your want of confidence. 
If you had any intention of marrying La Briere when 
3'ou went to Havre it is surprising that you said noth- 
ing to me about it before you started. And why have 
3'ou omitted writing to a friend who is so easily made 
anxious as I ? Your letter arrived a trifle late ; I had 
already seen the banker. You are a child, Melchior, 
and you are playing tricks with us. It is not right 
The duke himself is quite indignant at your proceed- 
ings ; he thinks you less than a gentleman, which casts 
some reflection on your mother's honor. 

Now, I intend to see things for myself. I shall, I 
believe, have the honor of accompanying Madame to 
the hunt which the Due d'Hdrouville proposes to give 
for Mademoiselle de La Bastie. I will manage to have 
you invited to Rosembray, for the meet will probably 
take place in Due de Verneuil's park. 

Pray believe, my dear poet, that I am none the less, 
for life, 

Your friend, ^Il^onore de M. 



Modeste Mignon, 815 

" There, Ernest, just look ^t that ! " cried Canalis, 
tossing the letter at Ernest's nose across the breakfast- 
table; "that's the two thousandth love-letter I have 
have had from that woman, and there isn't even a 
'thou* in it The illustrious ill^onore has never com- 
promised herself more than she does there. Marry, 
and try your luck ! The worst marriage in the world 
is better than this soit of halter. Ah, I am the great- 
est Nicodemus that ever tumbled out of the moon! 
Modeste hfl fi millj opf J «"^ T Nm Inni k^i. ; ^^^ ^f- ■■■n't 
pet back from t|ift pnlfta^ wy^^r^ yp HT-fi t,0-dflyj t^ ^b^ 
tropics, wh ere we were thr^f Hayg ng^T Well, I am 
all the more anxious for your triumph over the grand 
equerry, because I told the duchess I came here only 
for your sake ; and so I shall do my best for you." 

" Alas, Melchior, Modeste must needs have so no- 
ble, so gi*and, so well-balanced a nature to resist the 
glories of the Court, and all these splendors cleverly 
displayed for her honor and glory by the duke, that I 
cannot believe in the existence of such perfection, — 
and yet, if she is still the Modeste of her letters, there 
might be hope ! " 

" Well, well, 3'ou are a happy fellow, you young 
Boniface, to see the world and 3'our mistress through 
green spectacles ! " cried Canalis, marching off to pace 
up and down the garden. 

C aught between two li^Sj^the poet was at a loss what [y/^ 
to do^ 

'' Play by rule, and you lose ! " he cried presently, 
sitting down in the kiosk. " Every man of sense 
would have acted as I did four days ago, and got him- 
self out of the net in which I saw myself. At such 



816 Modeste Mignon. 

timeB people don't disentangle nets, they break through 
them I Come, let as be calm, cold, dignified, affronted. 
Honor requires it ; English stiffness is the only way to 
win her back. After all, if I have to retire fijiallj-, I 
can always fall back on my old happiness ; a fidelity of 
ten years can't go unrewarded. lil^nore will arrange 
me some good marriage.*' 



Modeste Mignan. 817 



CHAPTER XXVI. 

TBUE LOVE, 

Teie hnnt was destined to be not only a meet of the 
hounds, but a me eting of al l the pftaaiona cxfiited 
by the col onel's milliona and Mrvlftfttp'a .beantgri. and 
while it was in prospect there was truce between the 
adversaries. During the days required for the arrange- 
ment of this forestrial solemnity, the salon of the villa 
Mignon presented the tranquil picture of a united fam- 
il3'. Canalis, cut short in his r61e of injured love by 
Modeste's quick perceptions, wished to appear cour- 
teous; he laid aside his pretensions, gave no further 
specimens of his oratory, and became, what all men of 
intellect can be when they renounce affectation, per- 
fectly charming. He talked finances with Gobenheim, 
and war with the colonel, Germany with Madame Mig- 
non, and housekeeping with Madame Latoumelle, — 
endeavoring to bias them all in favor of La Briere. 
The Due d'H^rouville left the field to his rivals, for he 
was obliged to go to Rosembray to consult with the 
Due de Verneuil, and see that the orders of the Royal 
Huntsman, the Prince de Cadignan, were carried out. 
And yet the comic element was not altogether wanting. 
Modeste found herself between the depreciatory hints 
of Canalis as to the gallantry of the grand equerr}^ 
and the exaggerations of the two Mesdemoiselles 



318 Modeste Mignon. 

d'H^rouville, who passed every evening at the villa. 
. Canalis made M odeste_takfi.jiotice tba t^ instead ofjbeip g 
v^,\ lEe hej ;oine jaLthe^ hunt* ahc woulc^ l^e soarnely noticed . 
Madame would be attended by the Duchesse de Man- 
frignense, daughter-in-law of the Prince de Cadignan, 
by the Duchesse de Chaulieu, and otherOTeat ladies of 

the_ Court; ^nnnng wbnm aha m\\\\(\ p rodmn^. no 8ell«a-- 

tion ; no doubt the officers in garrison at Roaen would 
be invited, etc. H^l^ne, on the other hand, was inces- 
santly telling her new friend, whom she already looked 
upon as a sister-in-law, that she was to be presented 
to Madame ; undoubtedly the Due de Verneuil would 
invite her father and herself to stay at Rosembraj' ; if 
the colonel wished to obtain a favor of the king, — a 
peerage, for instance, — the opportunity was unique, 
for there was hope of the king himself being present 
on the third day; she would be delighted with the 
charming welcome with which the beauties of the 
Court, the Duchesses de Chaulieu, de Maufrigneuse, 
de Lenoncourt-Chaulieu, and other ladies, were pre- 
pared to meet her. It was in fact an excessively amus- 
ing little warfare, with its marches and countermarches 
and stratagems, — all of which were keenly enjoyed by 
the Dumays, the Latournelles, Gobenheim, and Butscha, 
who, in conclave assembled, said horrible things of these 
noble personages, cruelly noting and intelligently study- 
ing all their little meannesses. 

The promises on the d'Herouville side were, however, 
confirmed by the arrival of an invitation, couched in 
flattering terms, from the Due de Verneuil and the Mas- 
ter of the Hunt to Monsieur le Comte de La Bastie and 
his daughter, to stay at Bosembray and be present at a 



Modeste Mignon. 319 

grand hunt on the seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth, of 
November following. 

La Briere, full of dark presentiments, craved the 
presence of Modeste with an eagerness whose bitter jo^'s 
are known only to lovers who feel that they are parted, 
and parted fatally from those they love. Flashes of joy 
came to him intermingled with melancholy meditations 
on the one theme, '' J have lost her," and made him all 
the more interesting to those who watched him, because 
his face and his whole person were in keeping with his 
profound feeling. There is nothing more poetic than a 
living elegy, animated by a pair of eyes, walking about, 
and sighing without rhymes. 

The Due d'Herouville arrived at last to arrange for 
Modeste's departure ; after crossing the Seine she was 
to be conveyed in the duke's caleche, accompanied by 
the Demoiselles d'Herouville. The duke was charmingly 
courteous ; he begged Canalis and La Briere to be of 
the party, assuring them, as he did the colonel, that he 
had taken particular care that hunters should be pro- 
vided for them. The colonel invited the three lovers to 
breakfast on the morning of the start. Canalis then_be- 
ganjo^ut into execution a^anMthat_he hadjieea-matur- 
i ng in his own"m!hd"for the last few days ; namely, to 
quietly_reconq^Qef ModesUij'Snd^rirow over'tHe (Tncbess, 
La^griercj^nd the duke. A graduate of diplomacy'conld 
hardly remain stuck '!n the position in which he found 
himself. On the other hand La Briere had come to the 
resolution of bidding Modeste an eternal farewell. £ach 
suitor was therefore on the watch to slip in a last word, 
like the defendant's counsel to the court before judg- 
ment is pronounced ; for all felt that the three weeks' 



^ 



f 

V 



820 Modeste Mignon, 

struggle was approaching its conclusion. After dinner 
on the evening before the start was to be made, the 
colonel had taken his daughter by the arm and made 
her feel the necessity of deciding. 

"Our position with the d'H^rouville family will be 
quite intolerable at Rosembray/' he said to her. " Do 
you mean to be a duchess ? " ' 

" No, father," she answered. 

" Then do you love Canalis?" 

^^No, papa, a thousand times no!" she exclaimed 
with the impatience of a child. 

The colonel looked at her with a sort of joy. 

" Ah, I have not influenced you," cried the true father, 
" and I will now confess that I chose my son-in-law in 
Paris when, having made him believe that I had but 
little fortune, he grasped my hand and told me I took 
a weight from his mind — " 
/ " Who is it you mean ? " asked Modeste, coloring. 

*' The man of fixed principles and sound nioraL- 
ity^^ said her father, slyly, repeating the words which 
had dissolved poor Modeste's dream on the day after 
his return. 

*' I was not even thinking of him, papa. Please 
leave me at liberty to refuse the duke myself; I under- 
stand him, and I know how to soothe him." 

" Then your choice is not made? " 

'* Not yet ; there is another syllable or two in the 
charade of my destiny still to be guessed ; but after I 
have had a glimpse of court life at Rosembray I will 
tell you m}' secret" 

" Ah ! Monsieur de La Briere," cried the colonel, as 
the young man approached them along the garden path 



Modeste Mignon. 821 



in which they were walking, " I hope you are going to 
this hunt?" 

'*No, colonel," answered Ernest. "I have come to 
take leave of you and of mademoiselle; I return to 
Paris — " 

" You have no curiosity," said Modeste, interrupting, 
and looking at him. 

"A wish — that I cannot expect — would suffice to 
keep me," he replied. 

" If that is all, you must stay to please me ; I wish 
it," said the colonel, going forward to meet Canalis, 
and leaving his daughter and La Briere together for a 
moment. 

^^Mademoiselle," said the young man, raising his 
eyes to hers with the boldness of a man without hope, 
'' I have an entreaty to make to you." 

*'Tome?" 

'' Let me carry away with me j^our forgiveness. My 
life can never be happy ; it must be full of remorse for 
having lost my happiness — no doubt by my own fault ; 
but, at least — " _ 

" Before we part forever," said Modeste, interrupt- 
ing k la Canalis, and speaking in a voice of some emo- 
tion, "I wish to ask you one thing; and though you 
once disguised yourself, I think you cannot be so base 
as to deceive me now." 

The taunt made him turn pale, and he cried out, ^* Oh, 
you are pitiless ! " 

"Will you be frank?" 

"You have the right to ask me that degrading ques- 
tion," he said, in a voice weakened by the violent palpi- 
tation of his heart. 

21 



322 Mode$te Mignon. 

^' Well, then^ did you read my letters to Monsieur de 
Canalis?" 

" No, mademoiselle ; and if I allowed j^our father to 
read them it was to justify my love by showing him how 
it was bom, and how sincere my efforts were to care 
you of your fancy/' 

" But how came the idea of that unworthy masquerad- 
ing ever to arise? " she said, with a sort of impatience. 

La Briere related truthfully the scene in the poet's 
study which Modeste's first letter had occasioned, and 
the sort of challenge that resulted from his expressing 
a favorable opinion of a young girl thus led toward a 
poet's fame, as a plant seeks its share of the sun. 

"You have said enough," answered Modeste, re- 
straining some emotion. '^ If you have not my hearty 
monsieur, you have at least my esteem." 

These simple words gave the young man a violent 
shock; feeling himself stagger, he leaned against a 
tree, like a man depnVed for a moment of reason. 
Modeste, who had' left him, turned her head and came 
hastily back. 

" What is the matter?" she. asked, taking his hand 
to prevent him from falling. 

" Forgive me — I thought you despised me." 

''But," she answered, with a distant and disdainful 
manner, " I did not say that I loved you." 

And she left him again. But this time, in spite of 
her harshness, La Briere thought he walked on air ; the 
earth softened under his feet, the trees bore flowers; 
the skies were rosy, the air cerulean, as they are in 
the temples of Hymen in those fairy pantomimes which 
finish happily. In such situations every woman is a 



Modeste Mignon. 823 

Janus, and sees behind her without turning round ; and 
thus Modeste perceived on the face of her lover the in- 
dubitable symptoms of a love like Butscha's, — surel}' 
the ne plus uUra of a woman's hope. Moreover, the 
great value which La Briere attached to her opinion 
filled Modeste with an emotion that was inestimably 
sweet 

** Mademoiselle," said Canalis, leaving the colonel 
and waylaying Modeste, ^' in spite of the little value 
you attach to my sentiments, my honor is concerned in 
effacing a stain under which I have suffered too long. 
Here is a letter which I received from the Duchesse de 
Chaulieu five days afber my arrival in Havre." 

He let Modeste read the first lines of the letter we 
have seen, which the duchess began by saying that she . 
had seen Mongenod, and now wished to many her poet 
to Modeste ; then he tore that passage from the body 
of the letter, and placed the fragment in her hand. 

" I cannot let you read the rest," he said, putting the 
paper in his pocket ; " but I confide these few lines to 
your discretion, so that you may veiify the writing. A 
young girl who could accuse me of ignoble sentiments is 
quite capable of suspecting some collusion, some trick- 
ery. Ah, Modeste," he said, with tears in his voice, 
*' your poet, the poet of Madame de Chaulieu, has no 
less poetry in his heart than in his mind. You are . 
about to see the duchess ; suspend jour judgment of 
iiieJiliritBen." 

He left Modeste half bewildered. 

"Oh, dear!" she said to herself; " it seem s they^ ') 
are all angels — and not marriageable ; the duke is the / 
oi3y one ihaibelongiS tohjimanity." I 



324 Modeste Mignon. 

^^Mademoiselle Modeste," said Batscha, appearing 
with a parcel ander his arm, ^^this hunt makes me 
verj- uneasy. I dreamed your horse ran away with 
you, and I have been to Rouen to see if I could get 
a Spanish bit which, they tell me, a horse can't take 
between his teeth. I entreat you to use it. I have 
shown it to the colonel, and he has thanked me more 
than there is any occasion for." 

" Poor, dear Butscha ! " cried Modeste, moved to 
A tears by this maternal care. 

^ Butscha went skipping off like a man who has just 
^eard of the death of a rich uncle. 

"My derfr father," said Modeste, returning to the 
salon; *'I should like to have that beautiful whip, — 
suppose you were to ask Monsieur de La Bri^re to ex- 
change it for your picture by Van Ostade." 

Modeste looked furtively at Ernest, while the colonel 
made him this proposition, standing before the picture 
which was the sole thing he possessed in memory of his 
campaigns, having bought it of a burgher at Ratisbon ; 
and she said to herself as La Briere left the room pre- 
cipitately, ** He will be at the hunt." 

A curious thing happened. Modeste's three lovers 
each and all went to Rosembray witb their hearts full 
of hope, and captivated by her many ggrfections. 

Rosembray — an estate lately purchased by the Due 
de Verneuil, with the money which fell to him as his 
share of the thousand millions voted a*i indemnity for 
the sale of the lands of the emigres — is remarkable 
for its chateau, whose magnificence compares only with 
that of Mesniere or of Balleroy. This imposing and 
noble edifice is approached bj' a wide avenue of four 



Modeste Mignon. 325 

rows of venerable elms, from which the visitor enters 
an immense rising court-yard, like that at Versailles, 
with magnificent iron railings and two lodges, and 
adorned with rows of large orange-trees in their 
tubs. Facing this court-j^ard, the chateau presents, 
betwen two fronts of the main building which retreat 
on either side of this projection, a double row of nine- 
teen tall windows, with carved arches and diamond 
panes, divided from each other 'by a series of fluted 
pilasters surmounted by an entablature which hides 
an Italian roof, from which rise several stone chim- 
neys masked by carved trophies of arms. Bosembray 
was built, under Louis XIV., by a ferrmer-general 
named Cottin. The fagade toward the park differs from 
that on the court-yard by having a narrower projection 
in the centre, with columns between five windows, above 
which rises a magnificent pediment The family of 
Marigny, to whom the estates of this Cottin were 
brought in marriage by Mademoiselle Cottin, her fa- 
ther's sole heiress, ordered a sunrise to be carved on 
this pediment by Coysevox. Beneath it are two angels 
unwinding a scroll, on which is cut this motto in honor 
of the Grand Monarch, Sol nobis benignua. 

From the portico, reached by two grand circular and 
balustraded flights of steps, the view extends over an 
immense fish-pond, as long and wide as the grand canal 
at Versailles, beginning at the foot of a grass-plot 
which compares well with the finest English lawns, and 
bordered with beds and baskets now filled with the 
brilliant flowers of autumn. On either side of the piece 
of water two gardens, laid out in the French style, dis- 
play their squares and long straight paths, like brilliant 



326 Mode%te Mignon. 

pages written in the ciphers of Len6tre. These gardens 
are backed to their whole length bj a border of nearly 
thirty acres of woodland. From the terr&ce the yiew is 
bounded by a forest belonging to Rosembray and con- 
tiguous to two other forests, one of which belongs to the 
Crown, the other to the State. It would be difficult to 
find a nobler landscape. 



ModeBte Mignon. 327 



CHAPTER XXVn. 
A girl's beyekge. 

Mobeste's arrival at Bosembray made a certain sen- 
sation in the avenue when the carriage with the liveries 
of France came in sight, accompanied by the grand 
equerry, the colonel, Canalis, and La Briere on horse- 
back, preceded by an outrider in* foil dress, and fol- 
lowed by six servants, — among whom were the negroes 
and the mulatto, — and the britzka of the colonel for the 
two waiting-women and the luggage. The carriage was 
drawn by four horses, ridden by postilions dressed 
with an elegance specially commaYided by the grand 
equerry, who was often better served than the king 
himself. As Modeste, dazzled by the magnificence of 
the great lords, entered and beheld this lesser Versailles, 
she suddenly reniembered her approaching interview 
with the celebrated duchesses, and began to fear that 
she might seem awkward, or provincial, or parvenue ; 
in fact, she lost her self-possession, and heartily re- 
pented having wished for a hunt. 

Fortunately, however, as the carriage drew up, Mo- 
deste saw an old man, in a blond wig frizzed into little 
curls, whose calm, plump, smooth face wore a fatherly 
smile and an expression of monastic cheerfulness which 
the half-veiled glance of the eye rendered almost noble. 
This was the Due de Verneuil, master of Rosembray. 



328 Modeate Mignon. 

The dachess, a woman of extreme piety, the only 
daughter of a rich and deceased chief-justice, spare 
and erect, and the mother of four children, resembled 
Madame Latoumelle, — if the imagination can go so 
far as to adorn the notary's wife with the graces of a 
bearing that was truly abbatial. 

'' Ah, good morning, dear Hortense ! " said Made- 
moiselle d'H^rouville, kissing the duchess with the sym- 
pathy that united their haughty natures; '^ let me 
present to you and to the dear duke our little angel, 
Mademoiselle de La Bastie." 

*' We have heard so much of you, mademoiselle," 
said the duchess, ^'that we were in haste to receive 
you." 

" And regret the time lost," added the Due de Ver- 
neuil, with courteous admiration. 

*' Monsieur le Comte de La Bastie," said the grand 
equerr}% taking thfe colonel by the arm and presenting 
him to the duke 'and duchess, with an air of respect in 
his tone and gesture. 

'* I am glad to welcome you, Monsieur le comte ! " 
said Monsieur de Yerneuil. '^You possess more than 
one treasure," he added, looking at Modeste. 

The duchess took Modeste under her arm and led 
her into an immense salon, where a dozen or more 
women were grouped about the fireplace. The men of 
the party remained with the duke on the terrace, ex- 
cept Canalis, who respectfully made his way to the 
superb ^leonore. The Duchesse de Chaulieu, seated 
at an embroidery-frame, was showing Mademoiselle de 
Verneuil how to shade a flower. 

If Modeste had run a needle through her finger when 



Modeite Mignon. 829 

handling a pin-cushion she could not have felt a sharper 
prick than she received from the cold and haughty and 
contemptuous stare with which Madame de Chaulieu 
favored her. For an instant she saw nothing but that 
one woman, and she saw through her. To understand 
the depths of cruelty to which these charming creatures, 
whom our passions deify, can go, we must see women 
with each other. Modeste would have disarmed al- 
most any other than Eleonore by the perfectly stupid 
and involuntary admiration which her face betrayed. 
Had she not known the duchess's age she would have 
thought her a woman of thirty-six; but other and 
greater astonishments awaited her. 

The poet had run plump against a great lady's anger. 
Such anger is the worst of sphinxes ; the face is radi- 
ant, all the rest menacing. Kings themselves cannot 
make the exquisite politeness of a mistress's cold anger 
capitulate when she guards it with steel armor. Canalis 
tried to cling to the steel, but his fingerd^ slipped on the 
polished surface, like his words on the heart ; and the 
gracious face, the gracious words, the gracious bearing 
of tiie duchess hid the steel of her wrath, now fallen 
to twenty-five below zero, from all observers. The ap- 
pearance of Modeste in her sublime beauty, and dressed 
as well as Diane de Maufrigneuse herself, had fired the 
train of gunpowder which reflection had been laying in 
^leonore's mind. 

All the women had gone to the windows to see the 
new wonder get out of the royal carriage, attended by 
her three suitors. 

'' Do not let us seem so curious," Madame de Chau- 
lieu had said, cut to the heart by Diane's exclama- 



330 Modeste Mignon. 

Hon, — *'*' She is divine ! where in the world does she 
come from?" — and with that the bevy flew back to 
their seats, resuming their composure, though Eleonore^s 
heart was full of hungr}' vipers all clamorous for a 
meal. 

Mademoiselle d'H^rouville said in a low voice and 
with much meaning to the Duchesse de Yemeuil, 
** ^^onore receives her Melchior very ungraciously/*^ 

*^T!1ie~^t[che88e de MaufHgneuse thinks there is a 
coolness between them," said Lanre de Yemeuil, with 
simplicity. 

Charming phrase! so often used in the world of 
societ3% — how the north wind blows through it. 

*'Why so?" asked Modeste of the pretty young 
girl who had lately left the Sacr^-Coeur. 

^^ The great poet," said the pious duchess — making 
a sign to her daughter to be silent — ^' left Madame de 
Chaulieu without a letter for more than two weeks after 
he went to Havre, having told her that he went there 
forhis health—" 

Modeste made a hasty movement, which caught 
the attention of Laure, H^l^ne, and Mademoiselle 
d'H^rouville. 

** — and during that time," continued the devout 
duchess, '^ she was endeavoring to have him appointed 
commander of the Legion of honor, and minister at 
Baden." 

"Oh, that was shamefhl in CanaJis; he owes every- 
thing to her," exclaimed Mademoiselle d'H6rouville. 

" Why did not Madame de Chaulieu come to Havre? " 
asked Modeste of H^lene, innocently. 

" My dear," said the Duchesse de Vemeuil, " she 



Modeste Mignon. 831 

would let herself be cut in little pieces mHiout saying a 
word. Look at her, — she is regal; her head would 
smile, like Mary Stuart's, after it was cut off; in fapt, 
she has some of that blood in her veins." 

" Did she not write to him? " asked Modeste. 

" Diane tells me," answered the duchess, prompted 
by a nudge from Mademoiselle d'Herouville, " that in 
answer to Canalis's first letter she made a cutting ^laply^ 
a few days ago." 

This .e^lanation made Modeste blush^jgi th sham e 
for the man before her ; she longed^ not to.jacush-him I 
underherfeet^but to revenge herselfJuy-^wift-ef ^tose 
gifltli^Q!2g. ftO^-^ thftt ftre^flrper than a. dagger's thrusL 
She looked haughtily at the Duchesse de Chaulien — 

" Monsieur Melchior ! " she said. 

All the women snuffed the air and looked alternately 
at the duchess, who was talking in an undertone to 
Canalis over the embroidery-frame, and then at the 
T oung g irl ba- iH brought up as to disturb a lovers' 
meeting^ — a thing not permissible in any society. 
Diane de Maufrigneuse nodded, however, as much as 
to say, "The child is in the right of it" All the 
women ended by smiling at each other ; thej' were en- 
raged with a woman who was fifby-six years old and 
still handsome enough to put her fingers into the treas- 
ury and steal the dues of 3'outh. Melchior looked at 
Modeste with feverish impatience, and made the gest- 
ure of a master to a valet, while the duchess lowered 
her head with the movement of a lioness disturbed at 
a meal ; her eyes, fastened on the canvas, emitted red 
flames in the direction of the poet, which stabbed like 
epigrams, for each word revealed to her a triple insult. 



832 * Modeste Mignon. 

^^ Monsieur Melchior I " said Modeste again in a 
voice that asserted its right to be heard. 

^' What, mademoiselle? " demanded the poet. 

Forced to rise, he remained standing half-waj'^ be- 
tween the embroidery frame, which was near a window, 
and the fireplace where Modeste was seated with the 
Duchesse de Vemeuil on a sofa. What bitter reflections 
came into his ambitious mind, as he caught a glance 
from ^l^onore. If he obeyed Modeste all was over, 
and forever, between himself and his protectress. Not 
to obey her was to avow his slavery, to lose the chances 
of his twenty-five days of base manoeuvring, and to 
disregard the plainest laws of decency and civility. 
The greater the folly, the more imperatively the duchess 
exacted it. Modeste's beauty and money thus pitted 
against Bl^onore's rights and influence made this hesi- 
/^ tation between the man and his honor as terrible to 
witness as the peril of a matadore in the arena. A man 
seldom feels such palpitations as those which now came 
near causing Canalis an aneurism, except, perhaps, be- 
fore the green table, where his fortune or his ruin is 
about to be decided. 

" Mademoiselle d'H^rouville hurried me from the car- 
riage, and I left behind me," said Modeste to Canalis, 
*' my handkerchief — " 

Canalis shrugged his shoulders significantly. 

^^ And," continued Modeste, taking no notice of his 
gesture, " I had tied into one corner of it the key of 
a desk which contains the fragment of an important 
letter ; have the kindness, Monsieur Melchior, to get it 
for me." 

Between an angel and a tiger equally enraged Canalis, 



Modeste Mignon. 833 

who had turned livid, no longer hesitated, — the tiger 
seemed to him the least dangerous of the two ; and he 
was about to do as he was told, and commit himself 
irretrievably, when La Briere appeared at the door of 
the salon, seeming to his anguished mind like the arch- 
angel Gabriel tumbling from heaven. 

'' Ernest, here, Mademoiselle de La Bastie wants 
you," said the poet, hastily returning to his chair by the 
embroidery frame. 

Ernest rushed to Modeste without bowing to any 
one ; he saw only her, took his commission with undis- 
guised joy, and darted from the room, with the secret 
approbation of every woman present. 

" What an occupation for a poet ! " said Modeste to 
H^lene d'Herouville, glancing toward the embroidery 
at which the duchess was now working savagely. 

" If you speak to her, if you ever look at her, all is 
over between us," said the duchess to the poet in a low 
voice, not at all satisfied mth the very doubtflil termi- 
nation which Ernest's arrival had put to the scene; 
" and remember, if I am not present, I leave behind 
me eyes that will watch you." 

So saying, the duchess, a woman of medium height, 
but a little too stout, like all women over fifty who re- 
tain their beauty, rose and walked towai*d the group 
which surrounded Diane de Maufrigneuse, stepping 
daintily on little feet that were as slender and nervous 
as a deer's. Beneath her plumpness could be seen the 
exquisite delicacy of such women, which comes from 
the vigor of their nervous systems controlling and 
vitalizing the development of fiesh. There is no other 
way to explain the lightness of her step, and the in- 



u 



334 ^ Modeste Mignon. 

comparable nobility of her beaiing. None but the 
women whose quarterings begin with Noah know, as 
!^16onore did, how to, be majestic in spite of a buxom 
tendency. A philosopher might have pitied Philoxene, 
while admiring the graceful lines of the bust and the 
minute care bestowed upon a morning dress, which was 
worn with the elegance of a queen and the easy grace 
of a young girl. Her abundant hair, still undyed, was 
simply wound about her head in plaits ; she bared her 
snowy throat and shoulders, exquisitely modelled, and 
her celebrated hand and arm, with pardonable pride. 
Modeste, together with all other antagonists of the 
duchess, recognized in her a woman of whom they were 
forced to say, *' She eclipses us." In fkct, ]6l^onore 
was one of the grandea dames now so rare. To en- 
deavor to explain what august quality there was in the 
carriage of the head, what refinement and delicacy in 
the curve of the throat, what harmony in her move- 
ments, and nobility in her bearing, what grandeur in 
the perfect accord of details with the whole being, and 
in the arts, now a second nature, which render a woman 
grand and even sacred, — to explain all these things 
would simply be to attempt to analyze the sublime. 
People enjoy such poetry as they enjoy^ that of Pa- 
ganini ; they do not explain to themselves the medium, 
the}' know the cause is in the spirit that remains 
invisible. 

Madame de Chaulieu bowed her head in salutation of 
Heleue and her aunt ; then, saying to Diane, in a pure 
and equable tone of voice, without a trace of emotion, 
^^ Is it not time to dress, duchess? " she made her exit, 
accompanied by her daughter-in-law and Mademoiselle 



Modeste Mgnan. 335 

d'H^roaville. As she left the room she spoke in an 
undertone to the old maid, who pressed her arm, say- 
ing, " You are charming," — whic^ meant, " I am all 
gratitude for the service you hafe just done us." After 
that. Mademoiselle d'H^rouville returned to the salon 
to play her part of spy, and her first glance apprised 
Canalis that the duchess had made him no empty 
threat. That apprentice in diplomacy became aware 
that his science was not sufl^cient for a struggle of thia 
kind, and his wit served him to take a more honesty 
position, if not a worthier one. When Ernest returned, 
bringing Modeste's handkerchief, the poet seized his 
arm and took him out on the terrace. 

*'My dear friend," he said, '* I_ani__not only the (A 
mo st unfortun ate man in the world, but I am also the ^ ^ 
most ridi culous ; and T come to you to get _me. onjb of 
the^hom^ nest into which I have run myself. Mo- 
deste is a demon ; she sees my difficulty and she laughs 
aQtllphe^as just , spoken to me of a ftagment of a > 
letter ai Mfldame de Chaulieu, which I had the folly. 
to give her; if she shows it I qan never make my/ \ 

y^ eace w ith Sl^onore. Therefore, will you at once askf 
Modeste to send me back that paper, and tell her,, , [ 
from me, that I make no pretensions to her hand. Say 
I count upon her delicacy, upon her propriety as a- 
young girl, to behave to me as if we had never known^ V. 
each other. I beg her not to speak to me ; I implore s^ 
her to treat me harshly, — though I hardly dare to ask* "^ 
hejt-tcr';feign a jealous anger, which would helg(_ m^. 
^ihter es^sr ama zingly. Go, I will wait here^^fof an 



336 Modeste Mignon. 

CHAPTER XXVm. 

MODESTE BEHAVES WITH DIGNmr, 

Ok re-entering the salon Ernest de La Briere fonnd a 
young officer of the company of the guard 'Q'Havre, the 
Vicomte de S^rizy, who had just arrived from Rosny to 
announce that Madame was obliged to be present at 
the opening of the Chambers. We know the importance 
then attached to this constitutional solemnity, at which 
Charles X. delivered his speech, surrounded by the 
royal family, — Madame la Dauphine and Madame be- 
ing present in their gallery. The choice of the emis- 
sary charged with the duty of expressing the princess's 
regrets was an attention to Diane, who was then an ob- 
ject of adoration to this charming young man, son of a 
minister of state, gentleman in ordinary of the cham- 
ber, only son and heir to an immense fortune. The 
Duchesse de Maufrigneuse permitted his attentions 
solely for the purpose of attracting notice to the age of 
his mother, Madame de S^rizy, who was said, in those 
chronicles that are whispered behind the fans, to have 
deprived her of the heart of the handsome Lucien de 
Rubempr^. 

''You will do us the pleasure, I hope, to remain 
at Rosembray," said the severe duchess to the young 
officer. 

While giving ear to every scandal, the devout lady 
shut her eyes to the derelictions of her guests who had 



Modeste Mlgnon. 337 

been carefully selected by the duke ; indeed, it is sur- 
prising how much these excellent wo^ien will tolerate 
under pretence of bringing the lost sheep back to the 
fold by their indulgence. 

"We reckoned without our constitutional govern- 
ment," said the grand equerry; "and Rosembra3% 
Madame la duchesse, will lose a great honor." 

" We shall be more at onr ease," said a tall thin old 
man, about seventy-five years of age, dressed in blue 
cloth, and wearing his hunting-cap by permission of the 
ladies. This personage, who closely resembled the Due 
de Bourbon, was no less than the_£rim)e de Cadignan, 
Master of the Hunt, and one of the lasfoFthe great 
French lords. Just as La Briere was endeavoring to 
slip behind the sofa and obtain a moment's intercourse 
with Modeste, a man of thirty-eight, short, fat, and very 
common in appearance, entered the room. 

" My son, the Prince de Loudon," said the Duchesse 
de Vemeuil to Modeste, who could not restrain the ex- 
pression of amazement that overspread her young face 
on seeing the man who bore the historical name that the 
bero of La Vendee had rendered famous by his bravery 
and the martyrdom of his death. 

" Gaspard/' said the duchess, calling her son to her. 
The young prince came at once, and his mother con- 
tinued, motioning to Modeste, ^'Mademoiselle de La 
Bastie, my friend." 

The heir presumptive, whose marriage with Desplein's 
only daughter had lately been arranged, bowed to the 
young girl without seeming struck, as his father had 
been, with her beauty. Modeste was thus enabled to 
compare the youth of to-day with the old age of a past 



838 Modeste Mignon. 

epoch ; for the old Prince de Cadignan had already said 
a few words which made her feel that he rendered as 
true a homage to womanhood as to royalty. The Due 
de Kh^tor^, the eldest son of the Duchesse de Chaulieu, 
chiefly remarkable for manners that were equally im- 
pertinent and free and eas}', bowed to Modeste rather 
cavalierly. The reason of this contrast between the 
fathers and the sons is to be found, probably, in the fact 
that young men no longer feel themselves gi'eat beings, 
as their forefathers did, and they dispense with the du- 
ties of greatness, knowing well that the}'^ are now but the 
shadow of it. The fathers retain the inherent politeness 
of their vanished grandeur, like the mountain-tops still 
gilded by the sun when all is twilight in the valley. 

£rnest was at last able to slip a word into Modeste's 
ear, and she rose immediately. 

^^ My dear,'' said the duchess, thinking she was go- 
ing to dress, and pulling a bell-rope, ^' they shall show 
you your appartment." 

Ernest accompanied Modeste to the foot of the grand 
staircase, presenting the request of the luckless poet, and 
endeavoring to touch her feelings by describing Mel- 
chior's agony. 

" You see, he loves — he is a captive who thought he 
could break his chain." 

'* Love in such a rabid seeker after fortune ! " retorted 
Modeste. 

" Mademoiselle, you are at the entrance of life ; 3'ou 
do not know its defiles. The inconsistencies of a man 
who falls under the dominion of a woman much older 
than himself should be forgiven, for he is really not 
accountable. Think how many sacrifices Canalis has 



Modeste Mighon. 339 

made to her. He has sown too much seed of that kind 
to resign the harvest ; the duchess represents to him ten 
years of devotion and happiness. You made him for- 
get all that, and unfortunately, he has more vanity 
t han prid e ; he did not reflect on what~he was losing 
until he met Madame de Chaulieu here to-day. If you 
really understood him, jx^u would help him. He is a 
child, always mismanaging his life. You call him a 
seeker after fortune, but he seeks very badly ; like all 
poets, he is the victim of sensations ; he is childish, 
easily dazzled like a child by anything that shines, and 
pursuing its glitter. He used to love horses and pic- 
tures, and he craved fame, — well, he sold his pictures 
to buy armor and old furniture of the Renaissance and 
Louis XV.; just now he is seeking political power. 
Admit that his hobbies are noble things.*' 

"You have said enough," replied Modeste ; " come," 
she added, seeing her father, whom she called with a 
motion of her head to give her his arm; "come with 
me, and I will give 3^ou that scrap of paper ; you shall 
carry it to the great man and assure him of my conde- 
scension to his wishes, but on one condition, — you must 
thank him in my name for the pleasure I have taken in 
seeing one of the finest of the German plays performed 
in my honor. I have learned that Goethe's masterpiece 
is neither Faust nor Egmout — " and then, as Ernest 
looked at the malicious girl with a puzzled air, she 
added: "It is Torquato Tasso! Tell Monsieur de 
Canalis to re-read it," she added smiling ; " I particu- 
larly desire that you will repeat to your friend word for 
word what I say ; for it is not an epigram, it is the jus- 
tification of his conduct, — with this trifiing difi'erence, 



\ 



340 Madeste Mignon. 

that he will, I trust, become more and more reason- 
able, thanks to the folly of his !^eonore." 

The duchess's head-woman condacted Modeste and 
her father to their appartment, where Fran9oise Cochet 
had already put everything in order, and the choice ele- 
gance of which astonished the colonel, more especially 
after he heard from Fran9oise that there were thirty 
other appartments in the chateau decorated with the 
same taste. 

"This is what I call a proper country-house," said 
Modeste. 

" The Comte de La Bastie must build you one like 
it," replied her father. 

" Here, monsieur," said Modeste, giving the bit of 
paper to Ernest ; " carry it to our friend and put him 
out of his misery." 

The word our friend struck the young man's heart. 
He looked at Modeste to see if there was anything real 
in the community of interests which she seemed to ad- 
mit, and she, understanding perfectly what his look 
meant, added, ^' Come, go at once, your friend is 
waiting." ' ' 

La Bri^re colored excessively, and left the room in a 

state of doubt and anxiety less endurable than despair. 

The path that approaches happiness is, to the true 

lover, like the narrow way which Catholic poetry has 

. called the entrance to Paradise, — expressing thus a 

f dark and gloomy passage, echoing with the last cries of 

*' earthly anguish. 

An hour later the illustrious company were all as- 
sembled in the salon ; some w^re pla3ing whist, others 
, Conversing ; the women had their embroideries in hand. 



Modeste Mignon. 341 

and all were waiting the announcement of dinner. The 
Prince de Cadignan was drawing Monsieur Mignon out 
upon China, and his campaigns under the empire, and 
making him talk about the Portendu^res, the L'Esto- 
rades, and the Maucombes, Provengal families; he 
blamed him for not seeking service, and assured him 
that nothing would be easier than to restore him to his 
rank as colonel of the Gkiard. 

'* A man of your birth and your fortune ought not 
to belong to the present Oppositioii," said the prince, 
smiling. 

This society of distinguished persons not only pleased 
Modeste, but it enabled bar to acquire, during her stay, 
a perfection of manners which without this revelation 
she would have lacked all her life. Show a clock to an 
embryo mechanic, and you reveal to him the whole 
mechanism ; he thus develops the germs of his faculty 
which lie dormant within him. In like manner 
Modeste had the instinct to appropriate the distinctive 
qualities of Madame de Maufrigneuse and Madame de 
Chaulieu. For her, the sight of those wpmen was an 
education; whereas a bourgeoise would merely have 
ridiculed their ways or made them absurd by clumsy 
imitation. A well-bom, well-educated, and right-minded 
young woman like Modeste fell naturally into connec- 
tion with these people, and saw at once the differences 
that separate the aristocratic world from the bourgeois 
world, the provinces from the faulK>urg Saint-Germain ; 
she caught the almost imperceptible shadings ; in short, 
she perceived the grace of the grande dame without 
doubting that she could herself acquire it. She noticed 
also that her father and La Briere appeared infinitely 



342 M9desU Mgnon. 

better in this Olympus than Canalis. The great poet, 
abdicating his real and incontestable power, that of the 
mind, became nothing more than a courtier seeking a 
ministry, intriguing for an order, and forced to please 
the whole galaxy. Ernest de La Briere, without am- 
bitions, was able to be himself; while Melchior became, 
to use a vulgar expression, a mere toady, and courted 
the Prince de Loudon, the Due de Bh^tore, the Vicomte 
de Serizy, or the Due de Maufrigneuse, like a idan not 
free to assert himself, as did Colonel Mignon, who was 
Justly proud of his campaigns, and of the confidence 
of the Emperor Napoleon. Modeste took .note of the 
strained efforts of the man of real talent, seeking some 
witticism that should raise a laugh, some clever speech, 
some compliment with which to flatter these grand per- 
sonages, whom it was his interest to please. In a word, 
to Modeste's eyes the peacock plucked out his tail- 
feathers. 

Toward the middle of the evening the young girl 
sat down with the grand equerry in a comer of the 
salon. She led him there purposely to end a suit whidTj 
she could no longer encourage if she wished to retain ^ 
her self-respect 
. " Monsieur le due, if you really knew me," she said, 
" you would understand how deeply I am touched by 
your attentions. It is because of the profound respect 
I feel for your character, and the friendship which a 
soul like yours inspires in mine, that I cannot endure to 
wound your self-love. Before your arrival in Havre I 
loved sincerely, deeply, and forever, one who is worthy 
of being loved, and my affection for whom is still a 
secret ; but I wish you to know — and in sa3ing this 1 



Modeste Mignon. 343 

am more sincere than most yoang girls — that had I 
not already formed this voluntary attachment, you 
would have been my choice, for I recognize your noble 
and beautiful qualities. A few words which your aunt 
and sister have said to me as to your intentions lead 
me to make this frank avowal. If you think it desir- 
able, a letter from my mother shall recall me, on pre- 
tence of her illness, to-morrow morning before the hunt 
begins. Without your consent I do not choose to be 
present at a figte which I owe to your kindness, and 
where, if my secret should escape me, you might feel 
hurt and defrauded. Tou will ask me why I have 
come here at all. I could not withstand the invitation. 
Be generous enough not to reproach me for what was al- 
most a necessary curiosity. But this is not the chief, nor 
the most delicate thing I have to say to you. You have 
firm friends in my father and myself, — more so than 
perhaps you realize ; and as my fortune was the first 
cause that brought you to me, I ^ish to say — but 
without intending to use it as a sedative to cakn the 
grief which gaUantry requires you to testify — that my 
father has thought over the affair of the marshes, his 
friend Dumay thinks your project feasible, and they 
have already taken steps to form a company. Goben- 
heim, Dumay, and my father have subscribed fifteen 
hundred thousand francs, and undertake to get the rest 
from capitalists, who will feel it their interest to take 
up the matter. If I have not the honor of becoming 
the Duchesse d'Herouville, I have almost the certainty 
of enabling you to choose her, free from all trammels 
in 3'our choice, and in a higher sphere than mine. Oh ! 
let me finish," she cried, at a gesture from the duke. 



344 Modeste Mignon. 

" Judging by my nephew's emotion," whispered 
Mademoiselle d'H^rouviUe to her niece, ^' it is easy to 
to see yon have a sister." 

^* Monsieur le dac, all this was settled in my mind 
the day of our first ride, when I heard you deplore your 
situation. This is what I have wished to say to you. 
That day determined my future life. Though you did 
not make the conquest of a woman, you have at least 
gained faithful friends at Ingouville — if you will deign 
to accord us that title." 

This little discourse, which Modeste had carefully 
thought over, was said with so much charm of soul that 
the tears came to the grand equerry's eyes ; he seized 
her hand and kissed it. 

^' Stay during the hunt," he said ; ^' my want of merit 
l^accustomed me to these refusals ; but while accept- 
ingyOTnriendship and that of the colonel, you must 
let me satisfy myself by the judgment of competent 
scientific men, that the draining of those marshes will 
be no risk to the company you speak of, before I agree to 
the generous offer of your friends. You are a noble girl, 
and though my heart aches to think I can only be your 
friend, I will glory in that title, and prove it to you at 
all times and in all seasons." 

^'In that case, Monsieur le due, let us keep our 
secret. My choice will not be known, at least I think 
not, until after my mother's complete recovery. I 
should like our first blessing to come from her eyes." 



Modeste Mignon. 345 



CHAPTER XXIX. 

CONCLUSION. 

*^ Laities," said the Prince de Cadignan, as the 
gaests were about to separate for the night, ^' I know 
that several of you propose to follow the hounds with 
us to-morrow, and it becomes my duty to tell you that 
if yoa will be Dianas you must rise, like Diana, with 
the dawn. The meet is for half-past eight o'clock. I 
have in the course of my life seen many women dis- 
play greater <;ourage than men, but for a few seconds 
only ; and you will need a strong dose of resolution to 
keep you on horseback the whole day, barring a halt 
for breakfast, which we shall take, like true hunters 
and huntresses, on the nail. Are you still determined 
to show yourselves trained horse-women?" 

" Prince, it is necessary for me to do so," said Mo- 
deste, adroitly. 

" I answer for myself," said the Duchesse de 
Chaulieu. 

'* And I for my daughter Diane ; she is worthy of 
her name," added the prince. " So, then, you all per- 
sist in your intentions? However, I shall arrange, for 
the sake of Madame and Mademoiselle de Vemeuil and 
others of the party who stay at home, to drive the stag 
to the further end of the pond." 



846 Modeste Mignon. 

** Make ^-ourselves quite easy, mesdames," said the 
Prince de Loadon, when the Royal Huntsman had lefl 
the room ; *•" that breakfast ^ on the nail ' will take place 
under a comfortable tent." 

The next day, at dawn, all signs gave promise of a 
glorious da}'. The skies, veiled bj- a slight gray vapor, 
showed spaces of purest blue, and would surely be 
swept clear before mid-day by the northwest wind, which 
was already playing with the fleecy cloudlets. As the 
hunting party left the chateau, the Master of {he Hunt, 
the Due de Kh^tore, and the Prince de Loudon, who 
had no ladies to escort, rode in the advance, noticing 
the white masses of the chd.teau, with its rising chim- 
neys relieved against the brilliant red-brown foliage 
which the trees in Normandy put on at the close of a 
fine autumn. 

*'The ladies are fortunate in their weather,'* re- 
marked the Due de Rhetore. 

*' Oh, in spite of all their boasting," replied the Prince 
de Cadignan, ^^ I think they will let us hunt without 
them ! " 

^^ So they might, if each had not a squire," said the 
duke. 

At this moment the atteption of these determined 
huntsmen — for the Prince de Loudon and the Due de 
Rh^tor^ are of the race of Nimrod, and the best shots 
of the faubourg Saint-Germain — was attracted by a 
loud altercation ; and they spurred their horses to an 
open space at the entrance of the forest of Rosembray, 
famous for its mossy turf, which was appointed for the 
meet. The cause of the quarrel was soon apparent. 
The Piince de Loudon, afiOiicted with anglomania, had 



Modeste Mignon. S47 

broaght out his own hantlDg establishment, which was 
exclasivelj Britannic, and placed it nnder orders of 
the Master of the Hunt. Now, one of his men, a lit- 
tle Englishman, — fair, pale, insolent, and phlegmatic, 
scarcely able to speak a word of French, and dressed 
with a neatness which distinguishes all Britons, even 
those of the lower classes, — had posted himself on 
one side of this open space. John Barry wore a short 
frock-coat, buttoned tightly at the waist, made of scar- 
let cloth, with buttons bearing the De Verneuil arms, 
white leather breeches, top-boots, a striped waistcoat, 
and a collar and cape of black velvet. He held in his 
hand a small hunting-whip, and hanging to his wrist 
by a silken cord was a brass hoi*n. This man, the first 
whipper-in, was accompanied by two thorough-bred 
dogs, — fox-hounds, white, with liver spots, long in the 
leg, fine in the muzzle, with slender heads, and little 
ears at their crests. The huntsman — famous in the 
English county from which the Prince de Loudon had 
obtained him at great cost — was in charge of an es- 
tablishment of fifteen horses and sixty English hounds, 
which cost the Due de Verneuil, who was nothing of 
a huntsman, but chose to indulge his son in this es- 
sentially royal taste, an enormous sum of money to 
keep up. 

Now, when John arrived upon the ground, he found 
himself forestaUed by three other whippers-in, in charge 
of two of the royal packs of hounds which had been 
brought there in carts. They were the three best hunts- 
men of the Prince de Cadignan, and presented, both 
in character and in their distinctively French costume, 
a marked contrast to the representative of insolent 



848 Modeste Mignon. 

Albion. These favorites of the Prince, each wearing 
full-brimmed, three-cornered hats, very flat and very 
wide-spreading, beneath which grinned their swarthy, 
tanned, and wrinkled faces, lighted by three pairs of 
twinkling eyes, were noticeably lean, sinewy, and vig- 
orous, like men in whom sport had become a passion. 
All three were supplied with the immense horns of 
Dampierre, wound with green worsted cords, leaving 
only the brass tubes visible ; but they controlled their 
dogs by the eye and voice. Those noble animals were 
far more faithful and submissive subjects than the hu- 
man lieges whom the king was at that m<Hnent address- 
ing ; all were marked with white, black, or liver spots, 
each having as distinctive a countenance as the soldiens 
of Napoleon, their eyes flashing like diamonds at the 
slightest noise. One of them, brought from Poitou, 
was short in the back, deep iii the shoulder, low-jointed, 
and lop-eared ; the other, from England, white, fine as 
a greyhound, with no belly, small ears, and built for 
running. Both were young, impatient, and 3*elping 
eagerly, while the old hounds, on the contrary, covered 
with scars, lay quietly with their heads on their fore- 
paws, and their ears to the earth like savages. 

As the Englishman came up, tbe royal dogs and 
huntsmen looked at each other as though they said, 
" If we cannot hunt by ourselves his Majesty's ^rvice 
is insulted." 

Beginning with jests, the quarrel presently grew 
fiercer between Monsieur Jacquin La Roulie, the old 
French whipper-in, and John Barry, the young islander. 
The two princes guessed from afar the subject of the 
altercation, and the Master of the Hunt, setting spurs 



Modeste Mignon. 849 

to his horse, brought it to an end by saying, in a voice 
of authority : — 

'^ Who drew the wood? " 

^^ I, monseigneur," said the Englishman. 

" Very good," said the Prince de Cadignan, pro- 
ceeding to take Barry's report. 

Dogs and men became silent and respectful before 
the Royal Huntsman, as though each recognized his 
dignity as supreme. The prince laid out the day's 
work ; for it is with a hunt as it is with a battle, and the 
Master of Charles X.'s hounds was the Napoleon of 
forests. Thanks to the admirable system he has in- 
troduced into French venery, he was able to turn his 
thoughts exclusivel}"^ to the science and strateg}^ of it. 
He now quietly assigned a special duty to the Prince 
de Loudon's establishment, that of driving the stag to 
water, when, as he expected, the royal hounds Jiad 
sent it into the Crown forest which outlined the horizon 
directly in front of the ch§.teau. The prince knew well 
how to soothe the self-love of his old huntsmen by giving 
them the most arduous part of the work, and also that 
of the Englishman, whom he employed at his own spe- 
cialty, affording him a chance to show the fleetness 
of his horses and d(^s in the open. The two national 
systems were thus face to face and allowed to do their 
best under each other's eyes. 

"Does monseigneur wish us to wait any longer?" 
said La Boulie, respectfully. 

" I know what you mean, old friend," said the prince. 
** It is late, but — " 

*' Here come the ladies," said the second whipper-in. 

At that moment the cavalcade of sixteen riders was 



350 Modeste Mignon. 

seen to approach, at the head of which were the green 
veils of the four ladies. Modeste, accompanied by her 
father, the grand eqaerry, and La Briere, was in the ad- 
vance, beside the Duchesse de Maafrignease whom the 
Vicomte de S^rizy escorted. Behind them rode the 
Duchesse de Chaulieu, flanked by Canalis, on^whogi 
shejnras smiling witliout a trace of rancor. When they 
"^ad reached the open space wEer6 theliuntsmen with 
their red coats and brass bugles, suiTOunded by the 
hounds, made a picture worthy of Van der Meulen, the 
Duchesse de Chaulieu, who, in spite of her embonpoint, 
sat her horse admirably, rode up to Modeste, finding it 
more for her dignity not to avoid that young person, to 
whom the evening before she had not said a single word. 

When the Master of the Hunt finished his compli- 
ments to the ladies on their amazing punctuality, Ele- 
onore deigned to observe the magnificent whip which 
sparkled in Modeste's little hand, and graciously asked 
leave to look at it. 

^' I have never seen anything of the kind more beau- 
tiful," she said, showing it to Diane de Maufrigneuse. 
" It is' in keeping with its possessor," she added, return- 
ing it to Modeste. 

'^ You must admit, Madame la duchesse," answered 
Mademoiselle de La Bastie, with a tender and malicious 
glance at La Briere, "^hat it is A_j!ather stea ^e gi ft 
from the hand of a future husband." 

<^ I should take it," said Madame de Maufrigneuse, 
'^ as a declaration of my rights, in remembrance of 
Louis XIV." 

La Briere's eyes were suffused, and for a moment he 
dropped his reins ; but a second glance from Modeste 



ModesU Mignon. 851 

ordered him not to betray his happiness. The hunt 
now began. 

The Due d'Herouville took occasion to say in a low 
voice to his fortunate rival: "Monsieur, I hope that^ 
you will make your wife happy ; if I can be useful to 
3'ou in any way, command m}' services; I should be 
only too glad to contribute to the happiness of so 
charming a pair." ^ .^^ 

This great day, in which such vast interests of heart 
and fortune were decided, caused but one anxiety to the 
Master of the Hunt, — namely, whether or not the stag 
would cross the pond and be killed on the lawn before 
the house; for huntsmen of his calibre are like great 
chess-players who can predict a checkmate under certain 
circumstances. The happy old man succeeded to the 
height of his wishes ; the run was magnificent, and the 
ladies released him from his attendance upon them 
for the hunt of the next day but one, — which, however, 
turned out to be rainy. 

The Due de Verneuirs guests stayed five days at Ros- 
embray. On the last day the Gazette de France an- 
nounced the appointment of Monsieur le Barofi de 
Canalis to the rank of commander of the Legion of 
honor, and to the post of minister at Carlsruhe. 

When, early in the month of December, Madame de 
La Bastie, operated upon by Desplein, recovered her 
sight and saw Ernest de La Briere for the first time, she 
pressed Modeste's hand and whispered in her ear, " I 
should have chosen him myself." 

Toward the last of February all the deeds for the es- 
tates in Provence were signed by Latoumelle, and about 
that time the family of La Bastie obtained the marked 



852 Modeste Mignon. 

honor of the king's signature to the marriage contract 
and to the ordinance transmitting their title and arms to 
La Briere, who henceforth took the name of La Briere- 
La Bastie. The estate of La Bastie was entailed bj- 
letters-patent issued about the end of April. La Briere's 
witnesses on the occasion of his marriage were Canalis 
and the minister whom he had served for five years as 
secretary. Those of the bride were the Due d'H^rou- 
viUe and Desplein, whom the Mignons long held in 
grateful remembrance, after giving him magnificent and 
substantial proofs of their r^ard. 

Later, in the coarse of this long history of onr man- 
ners and customs, we may again meet Monsieur and 
Madame de La Briere*La Bastie ; and those who have 
the eyes to see, will then behold how sweet, how easj*, 
is the marriage yoke with an educated and intelligent 
woman ; for Modeste, who had the wit to avoid the fol- 
lies of pedantry, is the pride and the happiness of her 
husband, as she is of her family and of all those who 
surround her. 

?*' Of THf *_ 

I]HIVEBSIT1 



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